• synonyms


[dee-noh-tey-shuh n]
See more synonyms for denotation on Thesaurus.com
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. the act or fact of denoting; indication.
  4. something that denotes; mark; symbol.
  5. Logic.
    1. the class of particulars to which a term is applicable.
    2. that which is represented by a sign.
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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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for denotation

Historical Examples

  • The denotation of the tenses was effected by appropriate signs.

    The Stranger in France

    John Carr

  • How little is the difference in denotation, how great the difference in suggestion!

  • We ought, if possible, to define in consonance with the denotation.

  • For the denotation may be increased in a sense without affecting the connotation.

  • Connotation and Denotation are often said to vary inversely in quantity.

British Dictionary definitions for denotation


  1. the act or process of denoting; indication
  2. a particular meaning, esp one given explicitly rather than by suggestion
    1. something designated or referred toCompare referent, connotation
    2. another name for extension (def. 11)
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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

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).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

denotation in Culture



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.

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