1 The explicit dictionary meaning of a word or expression, with reference to the entity or thing that the word designates. This meaning should be carefully distinguished from sense 2. See also semantic feature, semantic-feature hypothesis. Compare connotation (1).
2 In philosophy, the particular entities to which a word or expression can correctly be applied; hence the denotation of the word mother is the set of all particular mothers in the world, including the mother of anyone who reads these words, the Queen Mother (mother of Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), Mary mother of Christ, and so on. Some words and expressions have no denotation in this sense, a familiar example being unicorn, although it does have a connotation (2), namely horse-like one-horned animal. See also intension. Compare connotation (2). denotative adj. denote vb. [From Latin denotare to mark, from de from + notare to mark, from nota a mark or sign + -ation indicating a process or condition]