Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The act of denoting; indication.
  • n. Something, such as a sign or symbol, that denotes.
  • n. Something signified or referred to; a particular meaning of a symbol.
  • n. The most specific or direct meaning of a word, in contrast to its figurative or associated meanings.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The act of denoting, or something (such as a symbol) that denotes
  • n. The primary, literal, or explicit meaning of a word, phrase, or symbol; that which a word denotes, as contrasted with its connotation; the aggregate or set of objects of which a word may be predicated.
  • n. The intension and extension of a word
  • n. Something signified or referred to; a particular meaning of a symbol
  • n. The surface or literal meaning encoded to a signifier, and the definition most likely to appear in a dictionary
  • n. Any mathematical object which describes the meanings of expressions from the languages, formalized in the theory of denotational semantics
  • n. 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.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The marking off or separation of anything.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The act of denoting or indicating by a name or other sign; the attaching of a designation to an object; that function of a name or other designation by which it calls up to the mind addressed the idea of an object for which it may stand.
  • n. That which a word denotes, names, or marks, in distinction from that which it means or signifies. See connotation.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the act of indicating or pointing out by name
  • n. the most direct or specific meaning of a word or expression; the class of objects that an expression refers to

Etymologies

From to denote (from Middle French denoter, from Latin denotare "denote, mark out", itself from de- "completely" + notare "to mark") + -ation (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • To say that name has no denotation is like saying, in 1970, that “The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” has no denotation because the entities in question are not genuinely soviet, are not genuinely socialist and are not genuinely republics.

    Matthew Yglesias » After GWOT, What?

  • Where’s your evidence? there’s a great percentage of impoverished suburbs in France than in the US, but the denotation is the same.

    Matthew Yglesias » More on Charles Murray

  • Designation or denotation, which is the relation of a proposition to an external state of affairs (theory of reference, with its criterion of truth or falsity).

    Gilles Deleuze

  • Like Mill, he distinguishes between a term's denotation, which is the object or objects it stands for, and its connotation, which is the property or properties it ascribes to something.

    Stanisław Leśniewski

  • Each word has its denotation, that is to say, it names something.

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  • A word which carries on its face that it belongs to a nomenclature, seems at first sight to differ from other concrete general names in this — that its meaning does not reside in its connotation, in the attributes implied in it, but in its denotation, that is, in the particular group of things which it is appointed to designate; and can not, therefore, be unfolded by means of a definition, but must be made known in another way.

    A System Of Logic, Ratiocinative And Inductive

  • This “content” is denotation which is a crude gloss on the full meaning of an articulation, a coarse hacking away of import.

    Notes on Notes

  • Obviously the basic connotation of the words is somewhat different because there’s a great percentage of impoverished suburbs in France than in the US, but the denotation is the same.

    Matthew Yglesias » More on Charles Murray

  • Under the circumstances, it does seem to me that White's directive on the use of "denotation" and "connotation" is both peremptory and pre-emptive.

    Letting Go

  • But every name, as students of logic know, has its 'denotation'; and the denotation always means some reality or content, relationless as extra or with its internal relations unanalyzed, like the Q which our primitive sensation is supposed to know.

    Meaning of Truth

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