at·​tri·​bute | \ ˈa-trə-ˌbyüt How to pronounce attribute (audio) \

Essential Meaning of attribute

: a usually good quality or feature that someone or something has The interviewer asked me what I consider to be my best attribute. Both candidates possess the attributes we want in a leader.

Full 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


at·​trib·​ute | \ ə-ˈtri-ˌbyüt How to pronounce attribute (audio) , -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

Other Words from attribute


attributable \ ə-​ˈtri-​byü-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce attribute (audio) , -​byə-​ \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for attribute


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


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 From these painful experiences, Smith and Williams developed one common attribute that is evident throughout their lives: confidence. Kathia Woods, NBC News, 20 Nov. 2021 However, Salvatori said Qualcomm is focused on a secondary attribute: conserving electrical energy. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 4 Oct. 2021 The biggest attribute that has made Mike Trout a once-in-a-lifetime player — his phenomenal muscle structure — has, and will increasingly, come to destroy his ability to play even 120 games a year. Los Angeles Times, 5 Sep. 2021 An attribute that neither Keïta nor Sabitzer were able to show consistently and could make Moriba the most complete midfielder to ever play for the Red Bulls. Manuel Veth, Forbes, 1 Sep. 2021 Martin has been the most consistent player so far this season, and perhaps his best attribute is his maturity on both ends of the ball. Shreyas Laddha,, 22 Dec. 2021 Smith aces the performance, which is the main attribute in elevating the story above the standard sports-movie conventions. Brian Lowry, CNN, 18 Nov. 2021 Rising is 32 of 55 passing for 290 yards and three touchdowns since taking over, but his best attribute has been avoiding mistakes. Mark Heim |, al, 9 Oct. 2021 In agriculture, disruption can be a barrier, not an attribute. Christopher Marquis, Forbes, 9 Dec. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Nonetheless, Roku’s stock price has taken a hit in the last year, which analysts attribute to the global shipping challenges facing manufacturers. Wendy Lee, Los Angeles Times, 12 Jan. 2022 Both groups reported similar levels of depression and post-traumatic stress, which the authors attribute to the difficult conditions that lead some women to seek out abortions in the first place. Sarah Todd, Quartz, 21 Dec. 2021 In recent months, the port has attracted two new container services, which translates to 21 new ships, which officials attribute to congestion issues elsewhere. Christine Condon,, 9 Nov. 2021 Ben Armstrong: The struggles in manufacturing started long before the current labor shortage, which some attribute to unemployment insurance. Ethan Karp, Forbes, 28 Sep. 2021 The Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the Bank of Canada want to respond to a surge in inflation, whereas the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan still attribute it to temporary supply-chain bottlenecks. Jon Sindreu, WSJ, 4 Jan. 2022 After publication of this article, the quote was corrected to attribute it to Ashton Hamm, not Maya Porath. Eva Hagberg, Curbed, 24 Dec. 2021 However, Daly says that there is too much water on the Earth to attribute it all to those asteroids. Joshua Hawkins, BGR, 7 Dec. 2021 Some bar owners attribute it to poor clientele who wore only sandals or lacked shoes. Jack Nicas,, 4 Dec. 2021

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


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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Time Traveler for attribute

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for attribute

Last Updated

23 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Attribute.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for attribute


at·​tri·​bute | \ ˈa-trə-ˌbyüt How to pronounce attribute (audio) \

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.


at·​trib·​ute | \ ə-ˈtri-byət How to pronounce attribute (audio) \
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.

More from Merriam-Webster on attribute

Nglish: Translation of attribute for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of attribute for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about attribute


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