These two words, connote and denote, are easy to confuse and mix up because they sound similar and are used in a similar context.
They are both used to describe something. However, connote is to describe what something is implying.
Connote is the verb for connotation, meaning the feelings or implications connected to something.
Denote is to describe something directly. Denote is the verb for denotation, meaning the definition of something.
- Connote: to imply an idea, meaning, or feeling of something.
- Denote: to mean or indicate something.
If you are using a literal meaning, better to use denote. Otherwise, if you are implying a figurative meaning or connection, better to use connote.
The girls eyes are brown.
This statement denotes the fact the girl has brown eyes because it directly says it.
The girl’s eyes are as warm as soothing cocoa on a winter’s day.
This statement connotes the idea the girl has brown eyes, because they’re described as warm, and we’re given the image of cocoa.
Synonyms: indicate, signify, mean, designate
- The parking spot clearly denotes it is reserved for handicap drivers, because of it’s sign and marking.
- My friends and family firmly denoted their pride in me, by their jumping and cheering when I crossed the finish line at the end of the marathon.
- Denote your presence when working with a team; make sure you speak up and contribute your work and ideas too.
Synonyms: imply, suggest, represent, allude to
- The professor didn’t state his opinion directly, but connoted he had a leaning toward more liberal political views.
- Somehow, the young man is able to connote his love and admiration for the woman, without even speaking.
- Old Hollywood films would only connote to controversial themes, which today are directly displayed on film.
Negative connotation is a common expression used by English speakers, to express when something is described in a negative way, implies something negative, or is too informal and can be interpreted negatively.
- The word late doesn’t bother me, but when someone says I’m tardy, that has a negative connotation because it reminds me of my schoolteachers, every time I arrived late to class.
- I hate when people call my dog a mutt; that, to me, has a negative connotation, seeming to describe my dog as a lower-class dog.
- Rioters protested the grounds of a historical monument in the public park because of the negative connotations associated with the political background of the statue.