How to use connote and denote


Don’t let the rhyme fool you — to connote is to imply a meaning or condition, and to denote is to define exactly. Connote is like giving a hint, but to denote is to refer to something outright.



Often your body language can connote or imply how you feel without you having to saying it directly. For example, if you fold your arms and look away from someone as he speaks to you, you are connoting your discomfort.

When you act a certain way to show how you feel rather than just outright saying it, you’re connoting or suggesting that emotion. Words can often connote or suggest certain meanings or ideas. The word turbulent connotes the image of a bumpy ride on an airplane, for example.Connote is also used in formal logic. If A connotes B, then for A to be true, B has to also be true.


To denote is to draw attention to something or to show what it means. All of the googly-eyed looks that a girl gives to a boy might do more to denoteher feelings for him than leaving a note in his locker.

Denote comes from the Latin rootdēnotāre, “to mark out.” Using a particular facial expression can denote meaning, as in, “All of the crinkled foreheads and squinted eyebrows denoted a lack of understanding among the math students.” Words and symbols also point to, or denote, meaning, “If he had used PST to denote the fact that he was in the Pacific time zone, she would have known that it was only 4:00 a.m. and too early to call from New York.”

To connote is to suggest a connection. The word red can connote danger; we use the color red in warning signs to signify danger. Only words and symbols can connote something; people imply it. Here are some hints:

The “Good Old Days” connote a fond remembrance of better times in the past. (Forbes)

“Dear is a bit too intimate and connotes a personal relationship,” Ms Barry told the paper. (BBC)

The word red also denotes a color, and a blue wheelchair painted on a parking spot denoteshandicap parking. A word’s denotation is its literal meaning. You can also use denote to mean to indicate something or to be a sign of something:

With the meters no longer denoting each spot, drivers can fill up a parking lane as they see fit, whether efficiently or inconsiderately. (New York Times)

Blue colours denote wetter earth; yellow colours show drier conditions. (BBC)

According to Garner’s Modern American Usage , use of connote for denote is at stage 3 of language change: it’s common even among educated speakers and writers. To keep it straight remember that connote is like imply, and denote is telling you like it is.Musical notesdenote sound. What’s denote? It’s a B-flat. Get it?


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