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Legal Dictionary

connotation

Definition of connotation

Pronunciation

  • Rhymes: -eɪʃǝn

Noun

connotation (plural connotations)

  1. A meaning of a word or phrase that is suggested or implied, as opposed to a denotation, or literal meaning. A characteristic of words or phrases, or of the contexts that words and phrases are used in.

    The connotations of the phrase "you are a dog" are that you are physically unattractive or morally reprehensible, not that you are a canine.
  2. A technical term in logic used by J. S. Mill and later logicians to refer to the attribute or aggregate of attributes connoted by a term, and contrasted with denotation.

    The two expressions "the morning star" and "the evening star" have different connotations but the same denotation (i.e. the planet Venus).

Antonyms

  • denotation

Synonyms

  • intension

Related terms

  • connotative
  • connotatively

References

  • Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, 1989

Further reading

Connotation is a subjective cultural and/or emotional coloration in addition to the explicit or denotative meaning of any specific word or phrase in a language, i.e. emotional association with a word.

Usage

Within contemporary society, connotation branches into a mixture of different meanings. These could include the contrast of a word or phrase with its primary, literal meaning (known as a denotation), with what that word or phrase specifically denotes. The connotation essentially relates to how anything may be associated with a word or phrase, for example, an implied value judgment or feelings.

  • A stubborn person may be described as being either strong-willed or pig-headed. Although these have the same literal meaning (i.e. stubborn), strong-willed connotes admiration for the level of someone's will, while pig-headed connotes frustration in dealing with someone.
  • It is often useful to avoid words with strong connotations (especially disparaging ones) when striving to achieve a neutral point of view. A desire for more positive connotations, or fewer negative ones, is one of the main reasons for using euphemisms.

Logic

In logic and semantics, connotation is more or less synonymous with intension. Connotation is often contrasted with denotation, which is more or less synonymous with extension. Alternatively, the connotation of the word may be thought of as the set of all its possible referents (as opposed to merely the actual ones). A word's denotation is the collection of things it refers to; its connotation is what it implied about the things it is used to refer to. The denotation of dog is (something like) four-legged canine carnivore. So saying "you are a dog" would imply that you were ugly or aggressive rather than stating that you were canine.

References:

  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



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