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A Denotation is an instance of a reference relation (between referencer and a referent).




  • (WordNet, 2009) ⇒
    • # S: (n) indication, denotation (the act of indicating or pointing out by name)
    • # S: (n) reference, denotation, extension (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"
    • Noun
      • 1. The act of denoting, or something (such as a symbol) that denotes
      • 2. (logic, linguistics, semiotics) The primary, literal or explicit meaning of a word, phrase or symbol.
      • 3. (philosophy, logic) The intension and extension of a word
      • 4. (semantics) Something signified or referred to; a particular meaning of a symbol
      • 5. (semiotics) The surface or literal meaning encoded to a signifier, and the definition most likely to appear in a dictionary
      • 6. (computer science) Any mathematical object which describes the meanings of expressions from the languages, formalized in the theory of denotational semantics
      • 7. (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.

  • (Wikipedia, 2009) ⇒
    • In semiotics, denotation is the surface or literal meaning encoded to a signifier, and the definition most likely to appear in a dictionary.
    • Drawing from the original definition proposed by Saussure (1857-1913), a sign has two parts:
      • as a signifier, i.e. it will have a form that a person can see, touch, smell, and/or hear, and
      • as the signified, i.e. it will represent an idea or mental construct of a thing rather than the thing itself.
    • To transmit information, both the addresser and the addressee must use the same code, whether in the literal sense, e.g. Morse Code or in the form of a language. The denotative meaning of a signifier is intended to communicate the objective semantic content of the represented thing. So, in the case of a lexical word, say "book", the intention is to do no more than describe the physical object. Any other meanings or implications will be connotative meanings.


  • (M-W Colleg. Dict., 1999) ⇒ Merriam-Webster. (1999). “Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition.
    • NOTES: It suggests that a Dictionary Entry focuses on the Denotation of Words rather than their Connotation.
    • QUOTE: Perhaps the first thing that we need to remind ourselves of is that when we speak of the meaning of a word we are employing an artificial, if highly useful, convention. Meaning does not truly reside within the word but in the minds of those who hear or read it. This fact alone guarantees that the meaning will be to a great degree amorphous: no two people have had exactly the same experience with what a word refers to and so the meaning of the word will be slightly or greatly different for each of us.
    • QUOTE: So dictionary editors involve the traditional distinction between denotation - the direct and specific part of meaning which is sometimes indicated as the total of all the referents of a word and is shared by all or most people who use the word - and connotation - the more personal association and shades of meaning that gather about a word as a result of individual experience and which may not be widely shared. The dictionary concerns itself essentially with the denotations of words.