Connotation refers to the feelings and emotions that accompany a word. While words have literal meanings, denotation, they also have feelings and emotions that are associated with them.
It is important to understand the connotation of words that we use. While the literal meaning of a word may not be emotionally charged, the connotation could cause some people to be offended.
Because some words that have similar denotations, or literal meanings, have very different connotations, or emotional meanings, it is important to choose carefully from among the words that you could use to describe people and things.
Examples of Words with Strong Connotation (Positive or Negative)
1. Chicken-while this literally refers to an animal, it is a term used to describe someone who is a coward.
2. Retarded-while this literally means slow or "slowed," it is a highly negative term for someone who has a mental handicap.
3. Mutt-while this literally refers to a dog of mixed-breed, it has a negative connotation when used to refer to a dog, and an extremely negative connotation when used to refer to a person.
4. Addiction-one of the literal definitions of "addicted" is to be "devoted" to something, but "addiction" has a negative connotation when used to describe someone's affinity for something.
Pairs of Words with Similar Denotation and Different Connotation
1. Lady or Woman
2. Mess or Unorganized
3. Fired or Laid Off
4. Lazy or Laid-back
5. Scrawny or Slim