Connotation (The positive or negative feeling of a word)

The connotation of a word is what kind of feeling it gives the reader/listener, in addition to its definition. This is not specific to English, and it is a hard thing for non-native speakers to get right – especially if they do not read a lot of well-written English!

I think the concept will be clear if I provide some examples.

Example:  Grow

Grow has a neutral connotation. It can be used for good things and for bad things.

  • The tumor is growing. That is sad.
  • The economy is growing. That is great!

If we look up the verb grow in a thesaurus, we see many interesting synonyms:

Entry for "grow" in Thesaurus
Entry for “grow” in the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus (included in the MacOS Dictionary app).

Here are some more synonyms, found on

advance (positive connotation)

  • These predictions will advance our understanding of the mechanisms of…
  • Digital technologies in design, engineering and manufacture continue to advance.
  • Science can advance even without coherent models or unified theories.

expand (neutral connotation)

  • Deforestation is expanding into the Amazon region. (negative)
  • The charity’s outreach efforts are expanding (positive)

escalate (negative connotation)

  • If that party wins the election, the corruption which is already rampant will escalate to an unimaginable proportion

worsen (negative connotation)

enlarge (positive or neutral connotation)

  • Leaders should enlarge the circle of stakeholders.
  • Fresh thinking about interdependence can perhaps enlarge our political perspective.
  • Coupled B/Ba doping has been proved to enlarge the lattice parameters.

augment (positive connotation)

  • One of the most significant challenges is to integrate and augment sustainable urban forms with advanced technologies.

If you are still confused, let me know in the comments!

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