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A word is described as connotative when it adds a connotation, or suggestion of meaning. Connotations suggest character, nature, or implies something beyond the basic meaning of the phrase in which they're used.

Connotative words aren't adjectives, which are descriptors, or qualitative words, like 'beautiful'.

Writers use connotative words to expand meaning, and to give further perspective to ideas.

The best way to identify connotative words is to consider what the use of a particular word may connote. If the usage adds a connotation to the statement, the word is being used connotatively.

Connotative usage

The words in bold are the connotative usage:

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.
(Connotation: The fox can jump because the dog is lazy.)

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party.
(Connotation: Good men help the cause.)

In vino, veritas. (In wine, truth.)
(Connotation: Wine makes the truth come out.)

Compound usage of connotative words

Occasionally, more than one connotation is used in a sentence, and this broadens the meaning of the statement:

Many a true word is spoken in jest.


  • Observation of a general rule
  • Truth is suggested as a joke
  • How humor relates to fact

This statement is now common, but the original meaning was a penetrant use of the concepts of truth and humor, and how they interact. As you can see, compound usage can be very economic, and very effective.

Connotative usage in literature

In some cases, whole stories are written using connotative ideas and connotative words. Themes are used to develop associations between ideas, giving shape to the connotations.

Classic examples of connotative writing:

Alice in Wonderland                        Lewis Carroll
Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy    Douglas Adams
The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner    Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Brave New World                           Aldous Huxley
Animal Farm                                    George Orwell