The Difference between Connotative versus Denotative meaning

We’re gonna look at The difference between Connotative versus Denotative meaning and why it should matter to you as an emerging leader so let’s get into those details.

difference between Connotative versus Denotative meaning
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Today we’re talking about communication

specifically the difference between connotative and denotative meaning.

As a leader, your words matter, and really, everything you say is under a microscope when you are in leadership.So 

  1. we’ll talk about the definitions,
  2. we’ll give some examples, and then we’ll talk about
  3. what you can actually do with this information

cause it’s really important.

So let’s start with the Definitions of Connotative meaning

and that is the range of positive or negative

“Associations and emotional shades of meaning of a word. So the words that we use have a charge, a positive or a negative. There’s some that are neutral, I suppose but in most cases, the words that we use have a color to them and they are going to impact and influence the way people feel when they hear them”.

That’s quite Different from the Denotative meaning

which is the literal, precise definition you’d expect to find in a dictionary. A quick way to remember the difference between these is that dictionar starts with the letter “D”, and so does denotative.That’s the way I remember it. So connotative and denotative meanings are quite different.

Let’s look at some examples

to show you just how far apart these meanings can be. So we’ll start with some common but controversial words.

Now, as an American, that Definition of taxes

“The first word is taxes. And let me read to you the denotative, or dictionary definition. Compulsory contribution to state revenue levied by the government on worker’s income and business profits or added to the cost of some goods, services, and transactions”.

means very little to me. When I hear the word taxes, it really has a negative connotation. I mean, we had a tea party over this and we had this revolution over taxes so there’s a lot of emotion packed inside the word taxes for us.

Everyone has a slightly different understanding of this word, depending upon who you are,

where you’re from, but you can’t deny that that first time you saw your first paycheck and you thought it was gonna have a certain amount in it because of the hours you worked, and then you saw that they took a bunch of taxes out of it, you instantly developed a feeling about the word taxes and that feeling, or the connotative meanings associated with it.

Let’s look at another example, Social Media.

Here’s the denotative meaning behind social media. Websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. So again, that’s denotative. But the connotative meaning behind social media can be different depending

upon who you are. It could mean something very positive, like connecting with people, or it could mean drama, misinformation, and waste of time.

And the connotative meaning is really the one that hits us, either positive or negative, there’s an emotional charge associated with many words.

Let’s look at another Definition Bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy, bureaucracy is like a dirty word where I come from, I hate that word. But the dictionary definition sounds quite ordinary and even very dry.

A system of government in which most of the important decisions are made by state officials rather than be elected representatives.

That’s one definition, one denotative meaning of the word bureaucracy. But when I hear the word bureaucracy, I think about a slow and pointless system of steps that are made to discourage individual action.

That word is loaded with connotative meaning for me. So those are some differences in the examples. that we’re talking about, so why does this matter for us?

Well, it matters because you choose your words as a leader, and you can choose words that have a positive influence if you know what you’re aiming for. So when it comes to motivation, word choice matters.

There’s an old expression, there’s an old saying rather, the right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry. And that reminds me of a professor that I had, a good friend and mentor, Peter Marston. In grad school, he was talking about Martin Luther King Junior’s.

I Have a Dream speech, and he said quote, if the speech had been called

“I have an idea, nobody would have remembered it.”

And what he means by that is word choice matters and the word dream has a lot of positive and powerful connotative meaning behind it, and it really connects with people’s hearts in a way that the word quote “idea” does not.

Now there’s no way to tell in advance what exact words you should use because every situation is a little different but what you can do as a leader, is aim for those positive, connotative words and meanings that you want to impact people, to motivate them, and to influence them in the right direction.

So question of the day,

  1. What are your thoughts on connotative versus denotative meaning?

I would love to hear your comments in that section below the post.

So thanks, God bless and I will see you next time.

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