attribute

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

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 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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from attribute

Verb

attributable \ -​byü-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce attributable (audio) , -​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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Despite its own ample resources, PayPal relies on Facebook Messenger for certain customer interactions, taking advantage of Facebook’s superior attributes. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, "Data Sheet—A Day in the Life of a Davos Man—and Some Davos Women, Too," 24 Jan. 2018 Much of the covetable decor and ingredients for the oh-so-fresh restaurant come from nearby growers and makers, too, adding to the roster of attributes that make Stillpoint a true steward of Alaska’s wild beauty. Stephanie Granada, Sunset, "10 Stunning Eco-Friendly Hotels," 22 Jan. 2018 When colorful flags are hung, it is believed to enhance the balance of the above attributes and create happiness. Antonia Neubauer, Town & Country, "How to Plan a Trip to Asia," 5 Oct. 2016 Hart explains that as a mix of yellow and green rays, this hue takes on attributes of both colors while bringing its own flavor into the mix. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "Will Blue Make You Psychic? Can Yellow Detox Your Mind? A Color Therapist Weighs in on Fall 2019’s Color Trends," 4 Apr. 2019 Fekir is still only 24 years old and possesses all the attributes of a player similar to Philippe Coutinho. SI.com, "Liverpool Fans Rejoice Over Imminent Deal for Nabil Fekir Whilst Man Utd Supporters Vent Frustration," 8 June 2018 For me, beauty is not related to the physical attributes—for me, beauty is about grace. Laird Borrelli-persson, Vogue, "Pierpaolo Piccioli on Couture and the Importance of Community," 11 Oct. 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Of course, some of that breezy spaciousness can be attributed to ceilings that soar to nearly 20 feet in some spots. House Beautiful, "Patrick Printy Designed This California Home to Bring the Great Outdoors Into Every Room," 19 Apr. 2019 The mass media attention on Bouman specifically can be attributed to the tweeted photo, and a push from journalists and the public to ensure that women’s accomplishments in the sciences are not overlooked, as has occurred many times in the past. Kristen Bobst, Teen Vogue, "Women Like Katie Bouman Helped Us See a Black Hole for the First Time," 12 Apr. 2019 Since 2015, at least 10 known infant deaths in babies over 3 months can be attributed to infants rolling over from their back to their stomach or side while unrestrained in the popular product. Rachel Rothman, Good Housekeeping, "Everything You Need to Know About the 2019 Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play Sleeper "Recall"," 9 Apr. 2019 Compared to the previous year, more schools attributed decreases to challenges in the visa process, the U.S. social and political climate, and student decisions to enroll in other countries. Collin Binkley, The Seattle Times, "US colleges attracting fewer new students from abroad," 13 Nov. 2018 His death was ultimately attributed to drinking tea poisoned with radionuclide polonium-210. Fox News, "Poisoned Russian ex-spy, daughter have slim chance of surviving, niece says," 2 Oct. 2018 Speaking in generalities, though, tornado trends on the whole are extremely difficult to identify and attribute. Ian Livingston, Washington Post, "Only 3 intense tornadoes have formed this year. That’s a record.," 23 May 2018 These are places with low crime rates, good schools and a sense of community -- attributes experts say make small rural and suburban towns a breeding ground for the next school shooter. CBS News, "Small-town America hit hardest by mass school shootings," 22 May 2018 Investigations into data breaches typically take several months at least, and the government often doesn’t publicly attribute a hack to a foreign adversary until years later, if at all. Dustin Volz, WSJ, "Marriott Says Hackers Swiped Millions of Passport Numbers," 4 Jan. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about attribute

Statistics for attribute

Last Updated

9 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for attribute

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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 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.

attribute

verb
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.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on attribute

What made you want to look up attribute? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

using a distributed computer network

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Time Traveler Quiz: Which Word Came First?

  • time traveler quiz which word came first
  • Which came first?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!