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

Much like the Nintendo Classic systems, the PlayStation Classic will offer a variety of vintage games in a compact device that replicates the look, if not the physical attributes, of the original PlayStation. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "The PlayStation Is Coming Back in Miniature Form," 19 Sep. 2018 In other words, parents could predetermine the DNA, including physical attributes of their future children. Fox News, "Democrats eye 'fresh face' for 2020," 19 July 2018 They’ve been tied to Tkachuk — the son of Keith and brother of Matthew — and Czech forward Filip Zadina, but Tkachuk is an NHL-ready skater who embodies the physical attributes that head coach Claude Julien drools over. 4. Richard Morin, azcentral, "NHL mock draft 2.0: Movement near the top, Arizona Coyotes a wild card at No. 5," 8 June 2018 In Petrarch’s rendering, Laura is defined by her elusiveness, composed of isolated physical attributes. Cammy Brothers, WSJ, "‘Renaissance Woman’ Review: A Lady of Letters," 27 Apr. 2018 The description of each breed’s physical attributes in a way that will prevent unhealthy exaggeration . . Kyle Swenson, Washington Post, "Britain’s fanciest dog show had just named its ‘best in show.’ Then PETA struck.," 12 Mar. 2018 For reasons Loeb explains, this is a fascinating attribute—and an improbable (though not impossible) one for a natural object to have. Rob Reid, Ars Technica, "Nailing down the nature of ‘Oumuamua—it’s probably a comet, but…," 29 Nov. 2018 Moving fast and preserving stamina were life-and-death battlefield attributes. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "'Outlaw King' vs. 'Braveheart': Which Movie Gets Scotland Right?," 13 Nov. 2018 What’s necessary to succeed in an economy where attention is the reserve currency is a set of attributes that appear with no small frequency in the DSM. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Facebook keeps asking for our trust even as it loses control of our data," 13 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Purdy attributes much of her recent success in part to a pre-race deep breathing and visualization ritual. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "How Paralympic Medalist Amy Purdy Trains to Be a World-Class Snowboarder," 12 Dec. 2018 In an interview with Teen Vogue, Polis attributes his victory to his progressive campaign, which focused on several issues that directly impact the people of Colorado. Seamus Kirst, Teen Vogue, "Jared Polis, the First Openly Gay Governor in U.S. History, Wants Other LGBTQ People to Run for Office," 30 Nov. 2018 Bailey-Babenzien attributes the success in her career, and in her home life, to the power of manifestation. Carmen Rosy Hall, Vogue, "How Estelle Bailey-Babenzien Creates Calm Inside New York’s Coolest Menswear Shop," 27 Nov. 2018 Despite condemnation of his government by much of the international community, Maduro attributes the economic meltdown on opposition leaders colluding with the United States. Hollie Mckay, Fox News, "Venezuelan opposition leader laments "genocide" in his country, reveals his escape from detainment," 18 Sep. 2018 Hirsch attributed the slot growth to some of the new games offered at the Hammond casino. Karen Caffarini, Post-Tribune, "Casino revenues steady in Northwest Indiana," 13 July 2018 Lee attributed the increase to an acceleration in new home construction as well as the willingness of more existing homeowners to put their houses on the market. Editors, USA TODAY, "Trump's European visit, Wimbledon, Emmy nominations: 5 things you need to know Thursday," 12 July 2018 Brown primarily attributes the school’s success to individualized support. Damar Services, Indianapolis Star, "A peek inside Indiana’s first charter school specializing in serving students with special needs," 10 July 2018 The authors attributed that difference to superior field smarts, allowing the players to cover the field more efficiently. Tom Avril, Philly.com, "World Cup athletes burn a lot of energy. But some sports are even more demanding," 6 July 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

17 Jan 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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