Questions tagged [connotation]

For questions regarding the associated or underlying meaning of a word, in addition to its primary definition.

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Positive term for “curious”

I'm looking for a synonym for "curious" that is undoubtedly positive. "Curious" itself is fairly neutral--it could be interpreted as a good thing, but it's sometimes seen as a bad thing (i.e., "...
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3answers
948 views

What is a term for sarcastically downplaying something?

I remember reading the term for it years ago, but I can no longer remember what it is. It is when someone downplays a situation, usually sarcastically. They are fully aware of the problems of the ...
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2answers
754 views

Is 'arrogant' a masculine word? [closed]

I was trying to think of a word to describe a female acquaintance and came up with arrogant, but immediately wanted to discard this as the word itself felt masculine to me. I later settled on ...
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2answers
972 views

Does the word zealous have an implicit religious connotation? [duplicate]

Earlier today I was describing someone to a friend. I said, "I never realized how zealous he was." I meant for the meaning of zealous here to be religiously zealous. Without an adverb, I would ...
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5answers
3k views

Connotations of the word “galore”

I would like to know what connotations the word "galore" carries for native English speakers. I really like the word and it's meaning and have seen it being used in some modern contexts. However, I'm ...
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3answers
615 views

One-night stand and one nightstand

I was wondering whether the word nightstand has any sexual connotation. If so, are one-night stand and one nightstand the same thing? I do know that it doesn't actually have any connotation but some ...
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2answers
11k views

Origin of milquetoast and the negative meaning of milk in modern usage

I searched the word milquetoast and found out that it is a very pejorative term used in American English (after a cartoon character- Casper Milquetoast) to refer to someone of an unusually meek, bland,...
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1answer
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Can “extremely professional” have a negative connotation? [closed]

If someone is described as extremely professional, might there be a negative side to it? This is how I would take it in many contexts, and I'm wondering whether it's justified. If some chap at work ...
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5answers
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A word for extreme care, attention, dedication towards words or a language

I'm looking for a word or a phrase which suggests the treatment of words or a language with extreme care, attention, and devotion -- like on StackExchange for example. I thought of pamper e.g. words ...
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3answers
20k views

What does “talk to the hand” mean?

I saw the phrase "talk to the hand" on many funny stickers which seems like expressing the idea that you want to stop the topic or conversation which you feel uncomfortable or not interested in. But ...
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4answers
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What is a synonym for “controversial” with a more neutral connotation?

When things are described as "controversial," it's usually done with a negative connotation, as in "a controversial new law that many feel restricts their freedom." It seems people tend to describe ...
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What’s a “handegg”?

What’s a handegg? NOTE: This question is primarily related to the etymology of a compound noun which is not in The Dictionary. There is a hat this year called “Handegg”, given out for a posting that ...
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2answers
280 views

Is “reform” (v. and n.) losing its positive connotation?

OED definitions consistently imply that this word signifies change for the better. But I increasingly find people acquiescing and joining in using the term reform even when they frankly regard the ...
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2answers
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“Regression” in a positive sense

I'm looking for a word that means returning to the past or embracing old values, but words like "regression," "retrogression," and "atavism" all seem to have negative connotations attached to them. ...
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5answers
1k views

Why does 'up' have a positive connotation and 'down' have a negative connotation?

The word up usually has a positive connotation - thumbs up, look up, go up in life - whereas down usually has a negative connotation - look down, go down etc. Why is this so and when did such an ...
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1answer
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What is the right way to say that, “his credit balance is likely to be in deficit” [closed]

I want to say that that 'x' person spends a lot and his credit balance is likely to become negative. "With multiple ...., his balance is likely to be in deficit." OR "With multiple ...., his ...
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2answers
308 views

Connotation of the phrase “bidding big”

Is it correct to say that a bid is "big"? What connotations does the phrase bidding big come to the average native speaker's mind? Is the phrase, "bidding big" positive or negative? Is it daring or ...
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3answers
3k views

Is it correct to use “or” in place of “and/or”?

Consider the following sentence: A project is a large and/or complex undertaking. To me, the expression “and/or” seems redundant since in formal logic “or” implies “...
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2answers
6k views

Don't you do this vs Don't do this

Could anyone clarify, please, what the difference between these two sentences is? I heard an American woman say to her child: "Don't you do this!"
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3answers
2k views

Synonym for rare occurrence but with negative connotation

What are some synonyms for 'rare' or 'unusual' that have a negative connotation. For instance: Enron's collapse was unusual, as the massive financial trickery ultimately bankrupted millions of ...
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6answers
14k views

Connotations of “inevitable” versus “unavoidable”

"Inevitable" and "unavoidable" have near-synonymous definitions per stock Google dictionary searches, and both words stem from the same Latin root, but I've also seen broad acknowledgement that they ...
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1answer
156 views

Connotation of “unzipping”

I'm working a piece of software that, as part of what it does, will extract/uncompress a ZIP file. I'd like to report this to the user by showing the word "unzipping" alone. Will displaying the word "...
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3answers
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Something similar to “paranoid”, but with a less negative connotation?

Paranoia is an irrational feeling that people are out to get you (in a bad way). But what's a term or phrase for a situation where it irrationally feels like people are giving you positive attention ...
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6answers
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Is a “Tale” less factual than a “Story”?

I am preparing a press release, and so far the headline of the press release is: A SOVIET LABOR CAMP SURVIVOR’S TALE A colleague called the word "tale" into question, since this is a book about a ...
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1answer
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Connotation of “visceral”

I understand that "visceral" with respect to a reaction or feeling is a very intense one. But I haven't found an authoritative source that describes a visceral reaction as being an exclusively bad one....
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Is there a positive synonym for “indecisive”?

Is there a word that describes a person who tries to get as much information as possible when making a decision for fear of committing a mistake that might affect both him and others in a negative ...
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4answers
1k views

Does the term “abusive” connote intent?

When applied to an individual, does the term "abusive" imply that the individual harbors malicious intent? Similarly, if applied to an action, does "abusive" infer that the individual who performed ...
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2answers
4k views

Word for someone who is “pretentious”, but without negative connotation?

Pretentious is defined as "attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed." What if someone does impress others because they actually do have ...
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3answers
5k views

Connotations of “quixotic”

Would you say quixotic has more of a positive connotation or more of a negative connotation? The definition for quixotic given by Merriam-Webster is: hopeful or romantic in a way that is not ...
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5answers
11k views

Does “exotic” have racist connotation? [closed]

Sometimes you hear people use "exotic" to refer to something foreign to them. It can be a place, music, food, clothes, or even a person. Some people argue that the word exotic has racist connotation ...
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1answer
221 views

Connotation of the word “pile” [closed]

We would like to start an info-service for programmers and we came up with a name: Code Pile How does it sound for native-speakers? Is it ok?
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1answer
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Geek vs Geek Out - beyond computers

I am struggling with new usages of the word "geek" or "geek out". In social media outlets, it's no longer confined to computers or technology, but can be related to other subjects including ...
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6answers
2k views

Connotation of “appease” [closed]

Is "Bob did what he could in his capability to appease them" a positive or negative comment about Bob?
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6answers
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Bonus points, only negative

If you’re critiquing something, you might say that you’re giving it “bonus points” for an aspect that wasn’t essential or part of your original grading scheme, but you liked and consider to add ...
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1answer
365 views

Can parents “educate” their children? Or only teachers? [closed]

Many of my Asian students who are learning English say that parents can "educate" their children. However I'm not sure if this is a correct collocation in English. My understanding of "education" is ...
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1answer
631 views

Is this a correct usage of “gravitas”? [closed]

The word gravitas is usually used in reference to a human quality. Can it also be used correctly in the following example? The use of the time-worn stones for the steps gives an instant air of ...
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5answers
62k views

Why are female wizards called “witches”?

I was looking up these two words in Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English: Wizard: Witch: It's mentioned in the Word Origin section that Wizard comes from "Wise", while for "Witch" it totally ...
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1answer
452 views

'Animus' — negative connotation?

The Oxford Dictionaries entry for animus reads: [mass noun] Hostility or ill feeling: [mass noun] Motivation to do something: Owing to definition 1 above, I suspect that a negative ...
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3answers
11k views

Why the use of 'clock' in the following sentence?

"Bob clocked Joe right in the nose." In this sentence, "clocked" indicates that Bob punched Joe directly in Joe's nose. How did 'clock' come to be used in such a way? Is it colloquial/vernacular to ...
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5answers
3k views

synonyms for 'professional'

I am looking for a synonym for the adjective "professional" as it is sometimes used to mean "of high quality" or "projecting confidence & skill" when describing the perception of a group of people ...
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9answers
11k views

Is there an adjective for someone who can withstand ridicule?

I've been searching both my mind and several thesauruses attempting to find the adjective that best describes this type of person. The term "thick-skinned" is the closest to what I am trying to ...
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2answers
12k views

Connotations of “have you ever thought about…”

I recently had an argument with a friend around the question "have you ever thought about something?" The question was asked in the context of exploring some life possibilities, such as buying a ...
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4answers
2k views

Is the word “classless” neutral in its implication, or does it have a derogatory tone?

I was drawn to the word, “classless” in Carolyn Hax’s answer to a reader in the counseling corner of Washington Post (June 7), which comes under the title, “How do you get back at a loudmouth? By ...
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4answers
1k views

Non positively connoted synonym for “highlights”

I'm producing a monthly report that put forward a selection of ten particular cases out of 70 individual entries. I filter for the 5 best and 5 worst cases according to various indicators. The idea ...
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3answers
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Connotations of Letter 'X'

In the English language, the letter X has a connotation of mystery, intrigue, or excitement. Examples: Planet X: A theoretical planet of mysterious origin, or an unknown planet. [Edit: Bad example, ...
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1answer
318 views

“Putative” vs. “surrogate” [closed]

How similar or different is "putative" to "surrogate"? The term "surrogate father" is common, "putative father" is fairly so, too. But what may be the difference in connotation?
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13answers
14k views

Does “so called” have a negative connotation in English?

In some languages the word-by-word translation of "so called" usually has a neutral connotation. E.g. in the Czech language you may very often find a sentence like this (word-by-word translated from a ...
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4answers
14k views

Can “the chickens have come home to roost” have positive as well as negative connotations?

In answering a recent EL&U question (Idiom for the phrase "someone who gets what he deserved"), I cited the phrase "The chickens have come home to roost," and said that it "applies ...
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8answers
6k views

What is a heterosexual term for “cruising”?

Cruising, the act of going out and about looking for a sexual partner, is generally only used in a gay context in the US. What is a term with the same basic meaning but without the homosexual ...
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6answers
10k views

A positive word for 'opportunist'

The word opportunist seems to be used negatively for a person. Is there a word with the same but positive meaning?

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