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What is Negative Connotation? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:04 Negative Connotations
  • 1:09 Synonyms with Negative…
  • 2:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Hance

Elizabeth has taught elementary and middle school special education, and has a master's degree in reading education.

How do you recognize negative connotation? You may sense it without even realizing it! Read on to find out what negative connotation is and to get examples that will help you know when you encounter it in your own life.

Negative Connotations

Have you ever heard that there are two sides to every story, and then there's the truth? With many words, it is almost the same. A word or phrase has a literal definition that you would find if you looked it up in the dictionary. That definition is the denotation of the word. But many words also have feelings or emotions that people often associate with them. Connotation is the term that describes the feelings that are generally associated with a word or phrase. Sometimes you may hear a word and get a bad feeling about it. If a word or phrase has a common, bad feeling, you would say that it has a negative connotation.

Negative connotation may be something that you want to use to your advantage or avoid, depending on what your purpose for writing is. Let's imagine you are writing a description of a home you want to sell. Avoid using words with negative connotations. You don't want people to read your advertisement and have bad ideas about the home. But what if you are setting the mood for a mystery or a horror story? Words and phrases with negative connotations could help create feelings of fear or dread.

Synonyms with Negative Connotations

Check out the table below for some examples of words and synonyms with negative connotations. Notice that the synonyms are words with very similar meanings, but they don't give you the same feeling.

negative connotation

Here's another example of a paragraph written two ways: the first uses mostly neutral words, and the second replaces those with synonyms that have a negative connotation.

Neutral: The stealthy fox crept through the woods, following the smell to the small cabin. Inside, he could see a slender woman talking with a man. She had an assertive voice, and as she turned to gaze out the window, the fox was quick to hide in the shadows.

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