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.
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:
Here are some more synonyms, found on Thesaurus.com.
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!