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[dee-noh-tey-shuh n] /ˌdi noʊˈteɪ ʃən/
the explicit or direct meaning or set of meanings of a word or expression, as distinguished from the ideas or meanings associated with it or suggested by it; the association or set of associations that a word usually elicits for most speakers of a language, as distinguished from those elicited for any individual speaker because of personal experience.
a word that names or signifies something specific:
“Wind” is the denotation for air in natural motion. “Poodle” is the denotation for a certain breed of dog.
the act or fact of denoting; indication.
something that denotes; mark; symbol.
  1. the class of particulars to which a term is applicable.
  2. that which is represented by a sign.
Compare connotation.
Origin of denotation
1525-35; < Latin dēnotātiōn- (stem of dēnotātiō) a marking out, equivalent to dēnotāt(us) (past participle of dēnotāre; see denote) + -iōn- -ion Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for denotation


the act or process of denoting; indication
a particular meaning, esp one given explicitly rather than by suggestion
  1. something designated or referred to Compare referent, connotation
  2. another name for extension (sense 11)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for denotation

1530s, "indication," from Late Latin denotationem (nominative denotatio), noun of action from past participle stem of denotare (see denote). As a term in logic, from 1843 (contrasted with connotation).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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denotation in Culture
denotation [(dee-noh-tay-shuhn)]

The basic dictionary meaning of a word, without its connotations. For example, the denotation of the word modern is “belonging to recent times,” although the word may have different connotations.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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