Positive connotation is the idea of a word having an associated or felt meaning that is positive in some way without it necessarily reflecting the literal meaning of the word. The word “jolly” for example, has a very simple meaning — “happy” — so its literal meaning is often considered positive and it tends to have a connotation that is naturally positive as well. Another word can have a positive connotation, even if the word itself is not necessarily meant to be inherently positive. The word “plenty” has a literal meaning of “a good deal of something,” but is often associated with having sufficient wealth or food for comfort, giving it a positive association or connotation.
The term “positive connotation” refers to the kind of emotional or subconscious reaction someone has to a word. Different words can have different connotations and denotations, depending on the word and how it is used in a particular culture. The denotation of a word is its literal meaning, often simply described as the dictionary definition of a word, and is positive or negative only due to its strictest meaning. A word like “eloquent” has a clear denotation — a person who is capable of clear expression — but it can also have a positive connotation as well, that of someone whose speech indicates intelligence.
A connotation of any kind, either a positive or negative connotation, typically stems from how a word is used in a particular society. The word “butcher,” for example, simply means someone who separates meat into different cuts for sale or distribution. Usage of the word in association with various acts of manslaughter or crime, however, has given the word a negative connotation that implies it can be someone who savagely attacks another person. A particular word can take on a positive connotation in much the same way, and the word is then typically used to have that secondary meaning as well.
This concept can extend beyond one word, and can be used to describe an entire phrase or common saying. The term “sunny day,” for example, literally only refers to the fact that the sun is not obscured by clouds in the sky. It is often used with a positive connotation to imply that such a day is full of potential for fun or happiness, and the image of a sunny day has become equally associated with opportunities for enjoyment. Once a word takes on a positive connotation, it may, in fact, lose previous meanings and the denotation may change to match the connotation.