Denotation means the literal meaning of a word or name. Although Paris might make you think of romance, its denotation is simply "the city of an old tribe called the Parisii."

The Latin word denotare means "to mark," and denotation originally meant "the act of marking or the expression of something through a sign." Now we tend to use denotation in opposition to connotation, which is indirect or symbolic meaning. The denotation of rose is a particular kind of flower, while the connotation is of romantic love; the denotation of river is a body of water, while its connotation might be the unending flow of time.

Definitions of denotation
  1. noun
    the most direct or specific meaning of a word or expression; the class of objects that an expression refers to
    synonyms: extension, reference
    see moresee less
    type of:
    meaning, substance
    the idea that is intended
  2. noun
    the act of indicating or pointing out by name
    synonyms: indication
    see moresee less
    type of:
    the verbal act of naming
Commonly confused words

connotation / denotation

A connotation is the feeling a word invokes. But take note! A denotation is what the word literally says. If these words were on a trip, connotation would be the baggage, and denotation would be the traveler.

Continue reading...

Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week