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The term connotation (from the Latin prefix con- “with-”, “together-” and notatio “note”) is an ambiguous expression, especially in logic and linguistics : in logic it describes the content of the term , in linguistics the secondary meaning .

Connotation in the sense of conceptual content

The term connotation means additional content in logic. The opposite term is denotation .

According to Gottlob Frege , connotation means the intentional reference - the content or intension of a term - as opposed to its extension .

According to John Stuart Mill , a word is “connotative” (cf. English connotative “co-designating”) “when it designates one of its properties in addition to an object ; it is non-connotative [...] if it only designates an object or a property. "

Connotation in the sense of secondary meaning


In linguistics , more precisely in semantics , connotation means the secondary meaning of a linguistic expression. The connotation of individual words is usually in the foreground. But you can also “describe word, sentence or text connotations”. In word semantics , connotation describes the additional conceptual structure that accompanies the main meaning (the denotation , the denotation ) of a word and contains the stylistic , emotional , affective word meaning components - that is, what is consciously or unconsciously still resonating when a term is used .

Connotation is sometimes delimited from a mere association , which, in contrast to the connotation, does not belong to the actual meaning, but should be regarded as the justification (s) of which. The word mutt has a negative connotation compared to dog . The thought of fleas in dogs is just supposed to be an association. The distinction between conventionalized and purely individual connotation also seems correct.

The opposite term to connotation is denotation. Feature Theoretically , a distinction accordance with the semantic features connotative features of denotative characteristics .


Cultural dependence

Connotations of the same word may differ depending on the speaker , speaker group, and culture .

An originally neutral term "creeping" as it were assigned connotations across times and cultures can lead to a change in meaning and a reversal of meaning , for example with the terms regime and woman .

One method of exploring the connotations that a group of subjects associate with any word or other stimulus is semantic differential . In this method, test subjects are asked to tick off on a scale of counter-terms for a word (stimulus) how strongly a given scale property applies to them. For example, the word “mother” can be classified on scales such as “large… small”, “strong… weak”. If you work on a whole series of such scales for a word or another stimulus, for example occupational groups, with a group of test persons, you get an average rating which then allows comparisons between different groups of people.

Individual differences

Connotations are not only characteristic of groups of people. Due to different life experiences, the personal connotations for certain expressions can be very different. Anyone who grew up under the care of a loving mother, for example, probably has different connotations with the word “mother” than someone whose mother abused her child.


  • Different connotations are a way of distinguishing synonyms (or a reason why they are not “true” synonyms). The words “ quack ”, “uncle doctor” and “demigod in white” all share the denotation “doctor”, but differ in their connotations (“no good”, “family relationship”, “can do anything, or at least believe that) ").
  • The saying a rose is a rose is a rose by Gertrude Stein , which alludes to the various connotations of the term, is often quoted. “Actually” the rose is just an ornamental plant, meaning that resonates here are love, fragrance, transience and various political meanings as well as pain through the “thought out” thorns .
  • Proper names are usually not connotative, as they only refer to individuals , not their characteristics. Exceptions are proper names of important places, people or other facts that can have connotations, for example Mallorca , Hitler , Kevin and Hiroshima .

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: connotation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Duden, German Universal Dictionary , ISBN 3-411-05505-7 , 5th edition (2003) / Konnotation.
  2. Irving M. Copi: Introduction to Logic. P. 53.
  3. John Stuart Mill: Lyons 1980 , pp. 188 f.
  4. Kühn: Lexikologie (1994), p. 50.
  5. ^ Kessel / Reimann: Basic knowledge of contemporary German. Fink, Tübingen 2005, ISBN 3-8252-2704-9 , p. 163; Monika Schwarz, Jeanette Chur: Semantics. - 5th edition - G. Narr, Tübingen 2007, p. 56.
  6. ^ Kessel / Reimann: Basic knowledge of contemporary German. Fink, Tübingen 2005, ISBN 3-8252-2704-9 , p. 162 f.
  7. ^ Julia Isabell Kube: First names research. Questionnaire study of teachers as to whether there are prejudices regarding specific first names of primary school students and expected specific personality traits derived from them. Hochschulschrift zugl .: Oldenburg, Univ., Master-Thesis, 2009.
  8. Oliver Trenkamp: Unjust elementary school teachers: "Kevin is not a name, but a diagnosis" , In: Der Spiegel , September 16, 2009, accessed on September 21, 2013.