attribute

noun
at·​tri·​bute | \ ˈa-trə-ˌbyüt \

Definition of attribute

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a quality, character, or characteristic ascribed to someone or something has leadership attributes
2 : an object closely associated with or belonging to a specific person, thing, or office a scepter is the attribute of power especially : such an object used for identification in painting or sculpture
3 grammar : a word ascribing a quality especially : adjective

attribute

verb
at·​trib·​ute | \ ə-ˈtri-ˌbyüt , -byət\
attributed; attributing

Definition of attribute (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to explain (something) by indicating a cause He attributed his success to hard work.
2a : to regard as a characteristic of a person or thing should not attribute adult reasoning to children
b : to reckon as made or originated in an indicated fashion attributed the invention to a Russian

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Other Words from attribute

Verb

attributable \ -​byü-​tə-​bəl , -​byə-​ \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for attribute

Noun

quality, property, character, attribute mean an intelligible feature by which a thing may be identified. quality is a general term applicable to any trait or characteristic whether individual or generic. material with a silky quality property implies a characteristic that belongs to a thing's essential nature and may be used to describe a type or species. the property of not conducting heat character applies to a peculiar and distinctive quality of a thing or a class. remarks of an unseemly character attribute implies a quality ascribed to a thing or a being. the attributes of a military hero

Verb

ascribe, attribute, assign, impute, credit mean to lay something to the account of a person or thing. ascribe suggests an inferring or conjecturing of cause, quality, authorship. forged paintings formerly ascribed to masters attribute suggests less tentativeness than ascribe, less definiteness than assign. attributed to Rembrandt but possibly done by an associate assign implies ascribing with certainty or after deliberation. assigned the bones to the Cretaceous period impute suggests ascribing something that brings discredit by way of accusation or blame. tried to impute sinister motives to my actions credit implies ascribing a thing or especially an action to a person or other thing as its agent, source, or explanation. credited his teammates for his success

Did You Know?

Attribute means something rather similar to "pay tribute". So, for example, an award winner who pays tribute to an inspiring professor is, in a sense, attributing her success to the professor. Though if you attribute your fear of dogs to an incident in your childhood, you're not exactly praising the nasty dog that bit you way back when. The second sense of attribute is slightly different: If you attribute bad motives to a politician, it means you think he or she is doing things for the wrong reasons (even if you don't have any proof). When attribute is accented on its first syllable, it's being used as a noun, usually as a synonym for quality. So, for instance, you may believe that an even temper is an attribute of the best presidents, or that cheerfulness is your spouse's best attribute.

Examples of attribute in a Sentence

Noun

The interviewer asked me what I consider to be my best attribute. Both candidates possess the attributes we want in a leader.

Verb

attributed the quick rescue to the well-trained police force a psychotherapist who's a little too quick to attribute every emotional problem or character defect to an unhappy childhood
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Mangels are prized for their keeping attributes and can be stored over winter. Robin Tribble, Popular Mechanics, "How to Grow a Giant Pumpkin," 24 Jan. 2019 Libra and Aquarius share a lot of your intellectual attributes. Ashley Otero, Teen Vogue, "Who You Should Date, Based on Your Horoscope," 20 Aug. 2018 The World Cup highlighted his brilliant attributes with a total of three goals from three games. SI.com, "Why Tottenham Should Move to Sign Colombia Defender Yerry Mina From Barcelona," 12 July 2018 Sports Highlights Up Next: 2018 NBA Draft Profile: Grayson Allen Your video will play in: 5 seconds 2018 NBA Draft Profile: Grayson Allen Grayson Allen discusses the 2018 NBA Draft and declares his best attribute is shooting the basketball. Jason Jones, sacbee, "Michael Porter Jr. is enticing at No. 2. But how will Kings assess his latest setback?," 14 June 2018 Their chief attribute seems to be that they are served piping hot. Devra First, BostonGlobe.com, "It’s the rolls. It has always been the rolls," 31 May 2018 Perhaps his best attribute is adjusting to four different offensive coordinators during his time with the Ducks. OregonLive.com, "NFL draft 2018: Seattle Seahawks should consider these 20 running backs," 24 Apr. 2018 Instead, the film’s best and worst attribute is its absolute rejection of subtext. Adi Robertson, The Verge, "Assassination Nation is a vicious, cathartic horror film about misogyny," 21 Sep. 2018 But the most important attribute is his 3-point shot. Vince Ellis, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Pistons addition of Glenn Robinson III bolsters wing depth," 2 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

But often, the symptoms are harder to notice or definitively attribute to MS. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "What Selma Blair 'Thought Was a Pinched Nerve' Turned Out to Be MS," 22 Oct. 2018 Speaking out In the wake of those kinds of reactions, Rockstar issued a statement to Kotaku, attributed to Dan Houser. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "Rockstar developers speak out about “100-hour weeks” comment," 18 Oct. 2018 The number of people with the virus has climbed in recent years and is attributed in part to the opioid epidemic, say officials. Agueda Pacheco-flores, The Seattle Times, "Inslee: Erase hepatitis C in Washington by 2030," 28 Sep. 2018 In a post on his website, Joseph Turner, a conservative activist who runs a nationalist, anti-immigration advocacy group, detailed the alleged incident and attributed the account to two anonymous sources. Alexei Koseff, sacbee, "California lawmaker reprimanded for sexual ‘locker room talk’ about his colleagues," 11 July 2018 There are examples of Native American rock paintings in the Anza-Borrego Desert accessible to the public but these drawings are not in the Rancho Bernardo Style and are attributed to the Kumeyaay Tipai people. Diane Bell, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Discovery of hidden drawings puts Poway Native American art in a class of its own," 9 July 2018 But the lion’s share of the $10 million racked up in the latest expense report was attributed to the Department of Justice’s $5.5 million component expenses. Laignee Barron, Time, "Robert Mueller’s Russia Investigation Has Cost $16.7 Million, Report Shows," 1 June 2018 Reverse a couple missed strategy calls Schmidt attributed to the team, and Wickens may have finished in the top five. Jordan Guskey, Indianapolis Star, "Robert Wickens leads a Hinchcliffe-less Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to quality Indy 500," 27 May 2018 Chinese authorities staged hacking attacks on Google with fake accounts attributed to Ai in an attempt to frame him, and flagged his financial accounts as under criminal investigations. Brittany Martin, Los Angeles Magazine, "Ai Weiwei Will Be All Over L.A. This Fall With Simultaneous Exhibits," 22 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'attribute.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of attribute

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1530, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for attribute

Noun and Verb

Middle English, from Latin attributus, past participle of attribuere to attribute, from ad- + tribuere to bestow — more at tribute

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Statistics for attribute

Last Updated

14 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for attribute

The first known use of attribute was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for attribute

attribute

noun

English Language Learners Definition of attribute

: a usually good quality or feature that someone or something has

attribute

noun
at·​tri·​bute | \ ˈa-trə-ˌbyüt \

Kids Definition of attribute

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a quality belonging to a particular person or thing Patience is a good attribute for a teacher.

attribute

verb
at·​trib·​ute | \ ə-ˈtri-byət \
attributed; attributing

Kids Definition of attribute (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to explain as the cause of We attribute their success to hard work.
2 : to think of as likely to be a quality of a person or thing Some people attribute stubbornness to mules.

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Comments on attribute

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