Denotations and Connotations Denotation A word’s denotation is its literal meaning – that is, the definition you find in a dictionary. Connotation A word’s connotation is the feelings and ideas associated with a word. Denotation and Connotation Using a thesaurus, you can find words that have similar denotations but different connotations. For example: If you looked up the word smile in a thesaurus, you would likely find the vocabulary word smirk listed as a synonym. Smile and smirk have similar denotations but different connotations. Smile suggests happiness, while smirk suggests a smugness (an offensive selfsatisfaction) When someone smiles at us, we have a happy emotion. Happy emotions are positive, so the word smile has a positive connotation. When someone smirks at us, we have a sad or maybe a mad emotion. Sad or mad emotions are negative, so the word smirk has a negative connotation. Denotation and Connotation Other examples: Slim and Skinny both relate to being thin in size. However, slim has a positive connotation while skinny has a negative connotation. Slim reminds me of someone that is fit and trim. While Skinny reminds me of someone that is undernourished.