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.
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
Examples of attribute in a Sentence
The interviewer asked me what I consider to be my best attribute.
Both candidates possess the attributes we want in a leader. Verbattributed 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
Recent Examples on the Web
However, Thune and Cornyn share an attribute that could complicate their path to leadership: Both have criticized former President Donald Trump and have openly hoped that another candidate would win the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.—Grace Segers, The New Republic, 20 Sep. 2023 The suit provided various instances of misuse of his attributes.—Naman Ramachandran, Variety, 20 Sep. 2023 Perhaps Daryl’s most noble attribute is his instinctual protective nature, something that tends to give him purpose.—Daniel Dockery, Vulture, 7 Sep. 2023 The new Mitsubishi Montero Sport's attributes follow the principles of automotive feng shui:
(1) The pedals are close together, and the control action of the brakes, clutch, and throttle is smooth on the road.—Phil Berg, Car and Driver, 5 Sep. 2023 But perhaps one of our favorite attributes is just how quiet this microwave is.—Brigitt Earley, Good Housekeeping, 31 Aug. 2023 Turning the team over to McCord now makes all of those vital attributes more attainable.—Nathan Baird, cleveland, 12 Sep. 2023 Aside from typeface, a slew of other attributes can factor into the message that house numbers send.—Rachel Kurzius, Washington Post, 31 Aug. 2023 Our Testing Process Eight testers evaluated 16 nursing pillows in the comfort of their homes for one month, assessing each on several attributes, including quality, ease of cleaning, support, and overall value.—Katrina Cossey, Parents, 29 Aug. 2023
The increase could be attributed to drivers taking longer trips or entering the lanes during periods of heavier traffic.—Michael Laris, Washington Post, 22 Sep. 2023 The Canadian guidelines estimate one additional premature death in 1,000 could be attributed to alcohol for those who have two drinks a week.—Lydia Denworth, Scientific American, 21 Sep. 2023 This steep increase, which was accompanied by a general rise in poverty among all age groups, was preceded by two years of declining poverty rates, which were largely attributed to support offered by the federal government during the pandemic.—Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, 20 Sep. 2023 On a podcast interview last week, Gulden attributed West’s statements to his artistic temperament.—Paolo Confino, Fortune, 20 Sep. 2023 From the following year on, a series of attacks and ship seizures attributed to Iran have raised tensions.—Jon Gambrell, ajc, 19 Sep. 2023 Taking a similar approach, former biotech CEO Vivek Ramaswamy attributed the issues to Biden as well.—Julia Johnson, Washington Examiner, 19 Sep. 2023 Men tend to have higher levels than women, which researchers attribute to menstruation helping eliminate the chemicals from the body.—Patricia Kime, Hannah Norman, Kff Health News, Anchorage Daily News, 16 Sep. 2023 Judd King attributes his Utah upbringing, in part, to his success as a toymaker.—Shannon Sollitt, The Salt Lake Tribune, 16 Sep. 2023 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'attribute.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.
Noun and Verb
Middle English, from Latin attributus, past participle of attribuere to attribute, from ad- + tribuere to bestow — more at tribute