Knowing What Connotations and Other Types of Meaning are

Connotation Is – When reading a literary work, Sinaumed’s must have encountered several vocabulary words which unconsciously can give their own ‘sense of value’ regarding their meaning. Even as time goes by, the meaning of the vocabulary can change into negative or positive things, especially when spoken in everyday conversations. For example, the word “dog” which basically has a definition of ‘ a four-legged animal that likes to bark when a stranger approaches it.‘. But in this day and age, the word “dog” has become a harsh word that tends to be cursed by angry people. This is in line with one of the characteristics of language, which is dynamic. That is, language is following and adapting to the conditions of the people who use it.

What’s more, in this era of globalization, Indonesian vocabulary has increased a lot due to the “creativity” of its users. Many vocabularies then change their ‘taste value’. That is the concept of connotative meaning. Usually, the meaning of this connotation is closely related to the meaning of denotation which is also the main discussion in the branch of semantics. So, what does this connotation mean? Is there a difference between connotation and denotation in Indonesian, both in spoken and written language? What are the types of meaning in the world of semantics? So, so that Sinaumed’s understands these things, let’s look at the following review!

What is Connotation

Basically, this connotation is usually referred to as a word that has a figurative meaning, aka an imprecise meaning. In ‘showing’ the meaning that is not true, the word will usually also contain emotional values ​​or certain values ​​that are currently in effect in society. Given the existence of that language will not be separated from members of the community as users. Well, words that have connotations are known as connotative meanings. A little trivia, the use of this connotation has now developed in the world of marketing, to be precise for advertising a product.

This was also stated by Chaer (2013) stating that a word can be called a connotative meaning if the word does have a ‘taste value’, both positively and negatively (can also be in the form of subtle and gross nuances). Although there are also taste values ​​that are neutral or have no connotation at all. As previously explained, one of the characteristics of language is that it is dynamic, aka adapting to the conditions of the society, so the meaning of this connotation can also change from time to time.

For example: the words “wife” and “bini” both show the meaning of ‘ a woman who has become a husband’s partner’ . However, in its use, the word “wife” is more directed to a positive sense of value and has subtle nuances. Meanwhile, the word “bini” tends to have a negative taste value and has a rough feel, especially when used in writing news texts or official conversations. Although in fact, the word “bini” in Betawi culture does not have a negative connotation.

This is also in line with the statement of Waridah (2018) who argues that the connotative meaning is indeed based on one’s feelings or thoughts. In short, this connotation meaning will be based on social attitudes and even a certain perspective from an era. That is why, connotative meaning is also known as figurative meaning or contextual meaning. An example of a connotative meaning that shows a certain perspective from an era is the word “chair”. In ancient times, this word “chair” had a positive and subtle meaning, namely ‘a seat that is rather high and usually has four legs’. Meanwhile, nowadays, people’s perspective on the word “chair” is different, especially when it is related to political issues. Yep, the word “chair” will change to have a negative meaning and have a rough nuance, namely asdishonestly obtained ‘position’ or ‘position’ .

Since this connotation is an untrue meaning, aka figurative meaning that ‘highlights’ the value of taste from the perspective of an era, it is not uncommon for its existence to change following the development of society. There are so many vocabularies that turn out to be “results” of connotative meanings. Although to determine the figurative meaning of a word, one must first look at its true meaning, alias denotation. That is why, the existence of connotative meaning and denotative meaning will be related to one another.

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Based on the book Introduction to Indonesian Semantics , the reason why these connotative and denotative meanings “exist” and apply in society is because society’s views are based on prevailing cultural values ​​or norms. Yep, words with connotative meanings get “additional meanings” which are not entirely different from the views of the community itself as language users. Not infrequently, the “additional meaning” that leads to negative or positive sense of value is related to historical events and social functions that occur in society.

An example is the words “women” and “women”. Although these two words share the same denotation (true meaning) as ‘adult human beings, not men’ , in the perspective of society, their meanings have changed. The word “women” defines more ‘a figure who is more educated and modern in all respects (perspective, way of dressing, able to earn money for themselves)’ , even its use is often associated with modern life in the city center. Meanwhile, the word “women” defines more ‘ a person who is less educated, not modern in all respects, more motherly in feeling, and diligent in cooking in the kitchen’ , usually its use will be associated with ordinary life in a small town or village.

Even between the words “women” and “women”, there is also the word “female” which is considered to have a negative feeling and rough nuance. Given the word “female” is more often used to refer to the sex of animals. Even though the word “female” is used to refer to a woman, later on it will connote a very rude and lowly person, namely ‘a stubborn and wild person, like a girl who is naughty’ .

Unfortunately, nowadays there is often a word whose ‘taste value’ has declined due to the actions of members of the community, thus indirectly changing the perspective of that word. For example in the word “wisdom”, which denotatively (true meaning) is ‘a wise behavior or action in dealing with a problem’. Denotatively, the word “wisdom” gives a sense of positive and subtle nuances But nowadays, the word “wisdom” actually has a negative connotation and has a harsh nuance because of the irresponsible actions of some community members, thus changing the perspectives of other community members.

For example, there was a vehicle driver who was arrested because he had been proven to have violated traffic rules. Then, the driver instead asked for “wisdom” from the police officer not to further prosecute his mistake. Meanwhile, the police officer, who was supposed to be “wise”, asked the driver to give him “wisdom” as well. In short, the word “wisdom” can degenerate into ‘an act of bribery’ which has a negative connotation. When in fact, the word “wisdom” has a neutral or even positive connotation.

There is one more thing that needs to be considered about the meaning of this connotation, which is that it will be adapted to the way of life and the norms that apply in a group of people, usually in a religion. For example, the word “pig” if you look at the denotative meaning (true meaning) is ‘ a four-legged animal that likes to play in the mud and has a long snout’ . However, in a community group where the majority are Muslim, this animal has a negative connotation, because it is considered unclean and unclean. On the other hand, in a group of people where the majority are not Muslim, for example on the island of Bali, this animal does not have a negative connotation.

Examples of Connotative Meaningful Words

  • Odd

Denotation meaning: odd; not even (usually related to numbers)

Connotation meaning: strange; not as usual; magical (usually related to someone’s behavior)

  • Prey

Denotation meaning: animal meat used as food by wild animals (related to animal ecosystems in the forest)

Connotative meaning: target for evil deeds (related to evil things, for example thieves)

  • Pole

Denotation meaning: a long wooden pillar to support the roof of a house or bridge.

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Connotation meaning: something that becomes the staple of life.

  • Root

Denotation meaning: the part of the plant that is embedded in the soil as a reinforcement and absorber of water.

Connotative meaning: origin, cause of something.

  • Parasite

Denotation meaning: plants that live on other plants by sucking their food.

Connotation meaning: a person whose presence does not provide benefits and only lives on other people.

The Difference between Connotation and Denotation

Although the meaning of connotation and denotation are different in terms of definition, they are still related to each other. The thing that needs to be understood regarding the meaning of connotation and denotation is “every word which is a full word must have a denotative meaning, but not all of these words have a connotative meaning”. So, here is the difference between connotation and denotation.

Connotation Meaning Denotation Meaning
As an unreal meaning alias figurative meaning. As the true meaning based on the Big Indonesian Dictionary (KBBI).
There is a sense of value in its use. There is no sense value in its use.
Also known as contextual meaning. Also known as conceptual meaning.
In general, the meaning will change according to the perspective that develops in society. In general, in the form of an explanation as a meaning that really corresponds to the results of human observations. Starting from sight, smell, hearing, and the experience of the five human senses.

Recognizing Other Types of Meaning

The division of the types of meaning is not only connotative meaning and denotative meaning, but has a very broad discussion. In the book SEMANTIC: Theory and Analysis , revealed that there are at least 3 other types of meaning. Well, here’s an explanation!

1. Lexical Meaning and Grammatical Meaning

Does Sinaumed’s know if the smallest unit or semantic unit in that language is called a lexeme? The existence of this lexeme is the same as phonemes in the branch of phonology and morphemes in the branch of morphology, which are both abstract in nature. This lexeme forms the basis for the formation of a word. For example, the words buy, buy, buy, and purchase are both formed from the same lexeme, namely buy . The meaning of the word “buy” can be identified even without having to combine it with other elements. Well, that’s what is called lexical meaning.

Meanwhile, in terms of grammatical meaning, it looks more at linguistic units that can only be identified after these units are joined or combined with other linguistic units. In short, this grammatical meaning occurs when the basic word has undergone a process of affixing, repeating, and compounding, according to the context of the existing sentence.

2. Literal and Figurative Meanings

The literal meaning is a straightforward meaning which refers to the referent literally. For example, the word “crocodile”, according to the referent, will have the meaning of ‘a compatriot of four-legged animals that live in swamps or rivers’.

Meanwhile, the figurative meaning refers more to other referents which usually deviate with various ethical (moral), aesthetic (beauty), insulting (humiliation) goals, and others. For example, the word “to the back” can deviate into a bathroom, when applied to the sentence “…Because she couldn’t stand it, Alia immediately asked permission to go back.”

3. Primary Meaning and Secondary Meaning

Almost the same as the lexical meaning, denotative meaning, and literal meaning, this primary meaning is also the meaning of a word that can be known by language users even without the help of context. While the secondary meaning is tantamount to grammatical meaning, connotative meaning, and figurative meaning, namely as meaning that can only be identified by language users with the help of context.

Well, that’s a review of what connotation is and examples, the difference with denotative meaning, and other types of meaning in the world of semantics. Can Sinaumed’s name another example of this connotative meaning?


Chaer, Abdul. (2013). Introduction to Indonesian Semantics . Jakarta: PT Rineka Cipta.

Wijana, I Dewa Putu and Muhammad Rohmadi. (2008). SEMANTIC: Theory and Analysis . Surakarta: Yuma Pustaka.