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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. 2015.
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Examples from the web for denotation
  • One chef simply lists each step in the flattest of language (“force the flesh loose”), a style Sennett calls “dead denotation.
  • When we say "free market" we don't mean the denotation of "doesn't cost anything" for that "free" part.
  • He wishes ``to challenge the politics of denotation and connotation'' in traditional ``heterocentric'' critical practice.
  • Your other suggestions again don't fit either the denotation or connotation of the statement.
  • Fair enough definition, but there is more to communication than denotations – connotation is sometimes even more important.
  • The denotation loses meaning rapidly as we stroll across the campus, and precipitously as we move to another campus.
  • The word has no negative denotation.
  • Other terms that might be of use in the conversation include imagery, connotation, and denotation.
  • It is inexact to term these, in the accepted denotation of the word, parks-they are reserves for recreation.
  • Identify use of denotation and connotation of words to draw incorrect conclusions.
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 American Heritage® 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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