AskDefine | Define denotation

Dictionary Definition



1 the act of indicating or pointing out by name [syn: indication]
2 the most direct or specific meaning of a word or expression; the class of objects that an expression refers to; "the extension of `satellite of Mars' is the set containing only Demos and Phobos" [syn: reference, extension]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. the act of denoting, or something (such as a symbol) that denotes
  2. the primary, literal or explicit meaning of a word, phrase or symbol.
  3. philosophy logic intension and extension of a word
  4. something signified or referred to; a particular meaning of a symbol
  5. the surface or literal meaning encoded to a signifier, and the definition most likely to appear in a dictionary
  6. mathematical objects which describe the meanings of expressions from the languages, formalized in the theory of denotational semantics
  7. In the context of "media-studies": A first level of analysis: what the audience can visually see on a page. Denotation often refers to something literal, and avoids being a metaphor.

Related terms


act of denoting
  • Hungarian: megjelölés
  • Portuguese: denotação
primary or explicit meaning
something signified or referred to

Extensive Definition

This word has distinct meanings in other fields: see denotation (semiotics) and connotation and denotation. For the opposite of Denotation see Connotation.
  • In media-studies terminology, denotation is a brilliant example of the first level of analysis: what the audience can visually see on a page. Denotation often refers to something literal, and avoids being a metaphor. Here it is usually coupled with connotation which is the second level of analysis, being what the denotation represents
In logic and semantics, denotational always attracts the extension meaning "in the pair", but the other element genuinely varies. See intension for some more discussion.
A denotation is the strict, literal, dictionary definition of a word, devoid of any emotion, attitude, or colour.
Denotation often links with symbolism, as the denotation of a particular media text often represents something further; a hidden meaning (or an Engima Code) is often encoded into a media text (such as the images below).
In order to understand fully the difference between denotation and connotation in the media studies and semiotics uses it is necessary to become familiar with some examples:
denotation in Catalan: Denotació
denotation in German: Denotation
denotation in Spanish: Denotación
denotation in French: Dénotation et connotation
denotation in Galician: Denotación
denotation in Italian: Denotazione
denotation in Dutch: Denotatie
denotation in Polish: Denotacja
denotation in Portuguese: Denotação
denotation in Finnish: Denotaatio
denotation in Swedish: Denotation
denotation in Ukrainian: Денотація
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