What Is Connotation?

Connotation is a secondary and implicit meaning of a word or an expression in contrast to denotation. While by denotative meaning, a word ‘blue’ is just a color, the connotative meaning would represent sadness or depression, for instance. Let us examine connotative vs denotative meanings better in the following examples:

  • Home – the place where you live (denotative meaning)

  • Home – represents warmth, hearth and comfort (connotative meaning)

  • A wall – a solid structure that divides on area from another (denotative meaning)

  • A wall – an emotional barrier (connotative meaning)

Linguists distinguish negative and positive connotation. Several words can have the same denotative meaning, while their connotations can differ being positive or negative. Compare the words ‘young, immature, juvenile, and youthful’. While all these words have the same denotative meaning of ‘a young person’, the connotations are different. ‘Immature and juvenile’ have negative connotations of being ‘childish’. On the other hand, ‘youthful’ has a positive meaning of ‘an active and energetic person’.

Why is it used in poetry?

Poetry aims at appealing to the reader’s emotions and feeling. That is why connotation is essential to stir up particular emotions. Poets play with meanings of the words to create powerful lines. Compare an example of connotation in a sentence with only one word changed:

  • She looked at him.

  • She glared at him.

  • She leered at him.

The denotative meaning is the same in all the sentences. A woman took a look at a man. However, with the power of one word we change the connotative meaning and make the woman angry or sexually attracted to a man. This connotation example shows that it helps create imagery and make poetry rich and powerful.

Examples and observations

Below is an example of connotation in a poem ‘Mending Wall’ by Robert Frost. In this poem a wall represents a barrier, the distance created by an obstacle between two people. This is a connotative meaning of a wall here.

And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
(Mending Wall by Robert Frost)

Connotation helps both a writer and a reader. While with the play of connotative meanings a writer enriches their works, a reader enjoys deciphering this implicit meaning.

In case you still have doubts whether you have understood connotation completely, turn to our writers for help.

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