Interpreting Connotations
The Emotional Power of Words
What feelings or ideas come to mind when you read these
words or phrases?
daily bread
knight in shining armor
class clown
What Are Connotations?
•Connotations are all the meanings, associations, or
emotions that a word suggests. Connotations
•may be positive or negative
•give a word emotional impact
•color a word’s meaning
•relate to readers’ experiences and feelings
•Connotations differ from denotations, which are the
dictionary definitions of words.
Three Kinds of Connotations
•Personal connotations carry added emotional meanings
for just one person or for a small group of people.
•Individuals may use common words that have come to mean
something unique to them.
•Close friends may use words that draw emotional power from
shared experiences.
•Family members may use words in ways that only that family
Three Kinds of Connotations
•Group connotations carry particular emotional
associations for larger groups who share
•common interests—sports, astronomy, creative writing
•locations—states, regions, cities, or areas
•common beliefs or philosophies
Three Kinds of Connotations
•Universal connotations carry similar associations for
people who share a common language. Universal
•are very useful to speakers and writers who want to reach a
large audience
•let speakers and writers convey a great deal of meaning in just
a word or two
•draw on the shared experiences of many people
Let’s Practice
Which words in the passage have strong connotations?
No man sheltered
On the quiet fairness of earth can feel
How wretched I was, drifting through winter
On an ice-cold sea, whirled in sorrow,
Alone in a world blown clear of love,
Hung with icicles. The hailstorms flew.
The only sound was the roaring sea,
The freezing waves.
from “The Seafarer,” translated by Burton Raffel
From “The Seafarer” from Poems from the Old English, translated by Burton Raffel. Copyright © 1960, 1964, 1998 by Burton Raffel.
Reproduced by permission of Yale University Press.
Allusions, like connotations, spark memories and emotions in
Abraham Lincoln
Huckleberry Finn
World War II
Statue of Liberty
Romeo and Juliet
What Are Allusions?
An allusion is a reference to a statement, person, place,
event, or thing that is known from literature, history, religion,
mythology, politics, sports, science, or popular culture.
•Allusions can supply enriching details and relevance to a
On Your Own
Identify the allusion and connotative words in this passage,
and describe their effect on the meaning of the passage.
I speak out of a full heart, for I am about to speak about a land that I love deeply
and passionately; a beautiful land of rolling hills and gurgling streams, of clear
starlit skies, of singing birds, and gamboling lambs; a land God has richly
endowed with the good things of the earth, a land rich in mineral deposits of nearly
every kind; a land of vast open spaces . . . a land capable of feeding itself and
other lands on the beleaguered continent of Africa, a veritable breadbasket. . . .
And so we would expect that such a land, veritably flowing with milk and
honey, should be a land where peace and harmony and contentment reigned
supreme. Alas, the opposite is the case.
from “The Question of South Africa” by Desmond Tutu
From "The Question of South Africa" by Desmond Tutu from a speech to the United Nations Security Council, October 23, 1984. Copyright © 1984 by United Nations. Reproduced by
permission of United Nations Publication Board.
The End