Saturday, May 28, 2011


Words in English - just like in most other languages - often have more than one meaning. That`s right, English Users, they have... multiple personalities.

But before calling the word psychiatrist, let`s take a closer look at how this works.

The meaning of a word is either denotative or connotative.

The denotative meaning or the denotation of the word is basically its basic literal meaning, the one that normally appears first in the dictionary.

The connotative meaning on the other hand is a meaning that comes from an emotional or cultural association of the word. This meaning is usually not obvious and sometimes generates confusion when we first learn it.

Let`s take the word “move” for example.

Denotative Meaning
move (v.intr.) to change in position from one point to another.
Ex. Bill moved to Florida last week. (He literally changed his position from where he was before)

Connotative Meaning
move (v.intr.) to generate emotion
Ex. I was moved by Sally`s graduation speech. (The speech generated emotion in me, but I did not literally “move” anywhere).

“Moving Pictures” - The cover of Canadian rock band RUSH`s 1981 album Moving Pictures intentionally depicts a situation where both the denotative and the connotative meaning of the word “move” are true.
In the picture, we see a group of movers moving pictures from a museum to a different location. At the same time, we see a family, and especially an older woman who is so “moved” by the pictures (or the fact that they`re being moved) that she drops her grocery bags.

Interestingly enough, the compound term “moving pictures” is synonymous of “motion pictures” or movies, as the scene looks like it might be part of a movie.

So remember, English Users, words don`t usually have just one meaning.

For a better idea of this, see if you can find denotative and connotative meanings for the following words:

Cool (adj)
Sharp (adj)
Soft (adj)
Drive (noun)

Next post, we`ll provide our suggested answers. Good luck!

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