Linguistics: Connotation and Denotation of the Word Line

Denotation can be referred to the dictionary-like definition of a word; to provide the denotation of a word is therefore to give its basic meaning. On the other hand, connotation stands for what a word implies or suggests. I consideration of connotation of a word, one goes beyond its basic meaning to examine what it is associated with in its everyday use. It is important to note that connotation relies on denotation. Hence both are interrelated. The word ‘line’ has several denotations and connotations.


The line is a broad concept with many denotations. The line is used as a verb and a noun. The most widely accepted denotation of a noun line is that one of a short or long, thin or thick mark on a surface, which could be real like a paper or imaginary as is the case of the equator, tropic of cancer and Capricorn. It also denotes a group of words in a song, text or poem and a series of objects arranged in a certain formation where one follows the other as is the case of cars on roads or voters on a queue.

The line could also be used about people from the same extended family who come after each other in generational succession. Royal families, for instance, produce a line of kings and queens. In fishing, a line denotes a thin string or cord from which fish hang. The same applies to the rope on which clothes hang after being washed. In its extended form, it used about telephone connections, especially the ones that are physical.

As a verb, the line means a mark or form a line on a piece of paper or any surface. It is also used about forming a queue or formation to aid inspection or parade. Incase of covering such fabrics, the line refers to the act of putting layers of different materials for insulation or decorative purposes.


In the context of journalism, the concept ‘line’ may suggest an article. In writing, dropping a line implies putting one’s thoughts on paper as is the case with letters. English is replete with idiomatic expressions which demonstrate what the word line implies in its everyday use.

A line is used to imply a limit beyond which one should not go; drawing a line is setting such a limit. When one performs within set parameters, it is often said that such a person falls, gets, or moves into line with others and therefore conforms to their requirements. If one fails to do that he fails to toe the line which comes with consequences.

Often we ear of hard-line positions during negotiations where individuals fail to concede ground. The line here refers to the inability of such individuals to compromise. The line also implies a way or approach. When faced with many options, for instance, one may choose the line of least resistance hence decide to execute a task most easily.

The line also implies danger. If one is assigned some duties that are likely to result to a downfall, it is said that such a person has been put on the line or simply his job is on the line; meaning that should anything go awry, chances of losing the job are high. In a war zone, soldiers stand in the line of fire and when they get shot at, it is often reported that they died in the line of fire; a dangerous zone.

The word line, therefore, has numerous connotations and denotations. The term line shall continue to be used in both its implicit and explicit forms.

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