Denotation is the direct or specific meaning of a word or expression. Denotation is prominently suggested by the word, based on the ideas and meaning associated with it. In brief, denotation is the word that represents something specific. It is the literal meaning or ‘dictionary definition’ of the word. 

For instance, the denotation of the word ‘snake’ is reptile and the connotation of the same word is betrayal, evil.  On the other hand, the connotation is the associated meaning that has emotional connection. However, denotative meaning and connotative meaning of a word exist together. 

However, another example of denotation can make the idea clear. The word ‘Dove’ means smaller species with pointed tails, any bird of the Columbidae family. This is the dictionary meaning or literal meaning or denotation. On the other hand, when it comes to connotation, the meaning of ‘Dove is the symbol of peace.

Denotation example in literature:

“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.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.”
These lines are from “Mending Wall” written by the Robert Frost. Here, the ‘wall’ means the physical boundary and it is the denotative meaning of the word. It also refers the ‘emotional barrier’ and that is its connotative meaning.

Denotation Definition

Each word has both denotation (literal meaning) as well as connotation (suggestive meaning). Denotation represents the referential meaning or literal meaning of a word or expression and it is explicit. 
For example, ‘Hollywood’ connotes the aspects such as glamour, tinsel, celebrity, stardom and on the other hand, this word denotes an area of Los Angeles, known as the main place of the American movie industry.

Denotation Examples

Denotation is the act of using specific words or symbols to represent the literal meaning of the words.

Denotation symbol examples:
  • “ “ – Quotation
  • # - number
  • ! – Exclamation point
  • % - Percent
  • : - Colon
  • ; - Semicolon

Denotation symbol examples in Math:
  • + - Plus
  • / - Divide
  • x – Multiply
  • = is equals
  • { } – is a set

Difference between Denotation and Connotation

The denotation and connotation are totally opposite. Some differences are mentioned below.