Literary terms: connotation and denotation



connotation means any idea or feeling or image or memory that a word evokes or to put it another way the connotation of a word is everything the word makes you think of when you hear it so take the word Christmas for example if I say Christmas to you that word probably immediately assuming you're from a culture that's similar to mine that word probably immediately evokes in you memories thoughts images you probably think of snow you probably think of pine trees and of course decorated Christmas trees you probably think of presents and Santa Claus and Rudolph you probably think of the birth of Jesus the infant Jesus you probably think of angels you maybe think of things like holidays skiing opening presents Christmas morning all of these images and thoughts and feelings are the connotations of the word Christmas we can also use this as a verb we can say the word Christmas connotes certain things this is not the same as the word denotation denotation is what the word actually refers to the agreed-upon defined meaning of the word so the denotation of the word Christmas would be the secular and religious festival beginning on December 25th Christmas Day and culminating in the feast of Epiphany and it sort of traditionally has commemorated the birth of Jesus but in many cultures it has sort of a more interdenominational or more secular meaning that's the denotation of the word Christmas that's what Christmas denotes so this is one of the ways and it's a it's a very fundamental way to understand how language works all words work this way they all denote something they all have a defined agreed-upon meaning otherwise there's no way to communicate but they also connote thanks words suggest things they evoke certain feelings some words like Christmas have positive connotations they almost universally means something pleasant or or life-affirming or cheerful other words tend to have negative connotations and so the kind of choice of words we use is govern not only by what they denote we not only want to use words that have the correct meaning but we also want to be aware that the words we use have the right connotation that they connote what we want to communicate I want to make sure I use pleasant connotation words when I'm trying to communicate something that I think is a good thing and I want to make sure I avoid words that have unpleasant or disturbing connotations so word choice which means diction or which is called diction word choice essentially comes down to these two questions what do I want the words I used to denote like what's the actual message but also how do I want my audience to feel what do I want them to think about and that's where I asked the question of what will the words I use connote so connotation this is what the word makes me think of this word that makes me feel this is how I respond to it emotionally and intellectually and denotation what do people agree the word actually means

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