Connotations = what a word may suggest, its mood or feeling or associations. English exams test your ability to understand what words mean literally (dictionary definition), and also their connotations, or associations.

  • sunset (literally) = the time in the evening when the sun disappears
  • sunset (connotations) = sadness, endings, death

To write about connotations, use phrases like:

  • this suggests
  • this makes us think of
  • this sets a mood of
  • this creates a feeling of

Here are some examples:

  • Void = nothingness, like abyss, it can be literal nothingness or an emotional dead space. It’s scary and makes us feel lost and very tiny in a blank, uncaring space.
  • Touching the Void = a terrifyingly intense experience of feeling or being lost. Here, in the context of mountaineering, the ‘void’ could mean falling into space. We can tell this is an emotional and not just physical experience because you can’t literally – physically – touch nothingness (void).

  • Taking on the World: ‘World can be literal – it’s a race around the globe, but also metaphorical: ‘world’ can suggest ‘something huge’, ‘being the best in the world’.

  • Blues – a type of jazz music, also a metaphor for feeling depressed

How to write about it:

‘The image of sunset suggests the end of light, endings and sadness, which links to [other word].’