Denotation: Know what it is, examples and application 

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The Portuguese language is vast of grammatical rules, and the denotation It's one of those rules. Basically, denotation or denotative sense is the literal and authentic form of spoken or written language.

That is, when a language is in a denotative sense it means that it is used in a literal sense, or rather, that it carries the basic meaning of the words, expressions and utterances of a language. 

This, as well as all the other rules of the Portuguese language, are essential for good communication, but also in different business contexts. 

In this article, we will understand in more depth what the denotative sense consists of in the Portuguese language, how it is used and the importance of this rule in good communication. Keep following the text and finally understand each term!

What is denotation in Portuguese?

Denotation is the use of the literal or actual meaning of language in a statement. When used, it leaves no room for other interpretations, so it is objective and accurate.


The extension therefore includes the meaning of the dictionary, the correct, original, and immediate meaning of the word. Thus, the purpose of indicative utterances is to send a message to the recipient so that it cannot be interpreted or deciphered in any other way.

Examples of denotation

To leave no room for other interpretations, many organizational systems or even instruction manuals use denotative language. In addition, it is used in contexts such as:

  • News and reports;
  • Medicine packaging inserts;
  • User manual;
  • Scientific literature.

Denotation has to do with the denotative meaning, which means proper, literal, and true, regardless of the context in which the term is used. 

Therefore, we can say that denotation is the exact meaning of the word, leaving no room for other interpretations​​. Some examples where it can be used are:

  • Lions are mammals;
  • I saw this news in a magazine;
  • The gardener cleared the area;
  • Employees are tired.

In this way, we can see that the use of the expression is to transmit the information to the receiver in an objective and clear way, not being allowed different interpretations.

 This language is used for informative texts such as: regulations, newspapers, instruction manuals, scientific articles, medication leaflets, among others.

That is, in general, denotative meanings are used to produce texts that have a referential function, whose purpose is to convey information.

In addition to the function of informing, the denotation is also intended to persuade, to guide various topics, such as discursive genres of prose-argued typologies, opinion articles, editorials and even instruction manuals.

In these speech genres, words are used to refer to concepts, facts and behaviors in the literal sense. To complete the understanding of this grammatical rule, let's talk about the other opposite grammatical rule, which is connotation.

Connotation, what is it?

Connotative language is characterized by the use of words that have figurative meaning.

That is, a language that goes beyond the literal meanings contained in the dictionary; therefore, it allows more freedom of multiple interpretations, as it can convey multiple or even different messages.

Therefore, depending on the understanding of those who access its content, a message is a type of language, generally used for subjective and emphasized messages, poetic, lyrical expressions or attempts to stimulate the interlocutor in some way.

In connotative language, figures of speech are commonly used in metaphors and in metonymies. 

For better clarification, in practice the connotative language permeates advertising materials, literary works, dialogues and speeches, aiming to create an affective bond or great attraction between the interlocutors. Other examples of connotation are:

  • Numerous cases of disease have jumped onto researchers' radar;
  • He was melted by her words;
  • The longing is crushing my heart;
  • I miss you;
  • We haven't spoken in a thousand years;
  • If we squeeze this newspaper, it will bleed.

That is, the interactions verbal can occur orally (speech) or in writing, that is, both in speech and in writing. In this sense, people can use the language denotation naturally in different contexts.

Obviously, it is also possible to resort to connotative language in a work environment, such as in a motivational lecture to instigate employees, quote a poem, or a brief story to contextualize a teaching.

As well as in colleges and event lectures in general. The important thing is to really fit within the established contexts on each occasion. 

But, as we mentioned, in the case of motivational speeches that usually take place in companies, nothing prevents using a more informal language, or in a connotative sense. 

They can resort to two levels of meaning for words and discourses, which are quite different from each other: denotation, which is the literal meaning of a word, and intention, which is the figurative meaning of a word. 

What are the benefits of using denotative language?

The benefits of using a language in the denotative sense are diverse, especially in business and organizational contexts. After all, it is the most suitable type of language for these contexts. 

See now the benefits of using this language in everyday life in society and in the job market:


Nothing better than receiving a speech with clarity. Everyone likes to receive a message or newsletter, for example, and clearly understand what has been read or heard. 

While it is true that our main task is to successfully complete the tasks assigned to us, it is equally true that we cannot ignore the importance of language at work.

So try to establish language as clear as possible, especially in a business context.

For example, if you are a manager of an industrial automation company that provides pressure transducer for other companies, a formal and clear language can contribute to the closing of deals without great difficulties.


The formality gives seriousness to all languages, whether in lectures for students, entrepreneurs, directors and CEOs. In this sense, denotative language becomes one of the most appropriate communication elements in these contexts. 

Improved audience engagement and understanding 

Denotative language, being literal, makes people receive communication without difficulties and without having to think and reason a lot. This makes for better engagement and understanding on the part of the audience receiving the language. 

This is another great benefit that can be exploited in business and educational contexts.

best brand reputation

It must be recognized that we are in a phase of rapid linguistic changes, but in fact, the better a brand communicates with its audience, the better the brand of the company as a whole achieves good reputation.

This is a strategy that needs to be data-driven, otherwise it reflects an outdated way of looking at communication work.

Therefore, in today's world, there is no longer any reason for grammatical errors or errors in the choice of language style, for example. After all, there are several ways to analyze the language, as well as to carry out strategies regarding the message passed to users.

And without a doubt, language is a great ally to establish a good reputation, being able to mark and highlight your company regardless of the segment.

Cautions when using denotative and connotative meanings

Literary language is characterized by connotations, words do not always have a single meaning as we see them in dictionaries; when used in certain contexts, they acquire new meanings called metaphors, full of emotion or social value.

When the word is used in the common sense of the dictionary, we say that it is used in a denotative sense; when the meaning goes further, the connotation emerges.

Although constantly used in poetic language, its connotation is not exclusive to literary texts, and can appear in different communication scenarios, such as spoken dialogues, advertisements, cartoons, lyrics, etc.

The intrinsic value of a communication situation depends on the social, historical and cultural moment in which it occurs. Therefore, the expressions used may or may not be significant, depending on the knowledge shared by individuals from different cultures.