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 The project represents the desire that stakeholders have for the sustainability and social equity values that Foster and Novak attribute to future urban development. Jennifer Castenson, Forbes, 15 Nov. 2021 In addition to the new attribute, Yelp is also matching employee donations made in April and May to AAPI organizations helping the fight against Asian hate, as well as doubling those previously made in March. Rachel Chang, Travel + Leisure, 6 Apr. 2021 Maybe that’s why Keenan Scott II — who spent a dozen painstaking years perfecting the play that officially opened Wednesday at Broadway’s Golden Theatre — identifies his characters by emotion, attribute or condition, rather than name. Washington Post, 14 Oct. 2021 Through this attribute, early paintings like To the Harbormaster (1957) obviously relate to later ones like Ode to Joy (1970-71) without contextual information. Jonathon Keats, Forbes, 7 Oct. 2021 But an underwater experiment to pinpoint the effect of each structural attribute would have been logistically impossible. Maddie Bender, Scientific American, 9 Sep. 2021 Predictive analytics — a key attribute for post-Covid-19 effective healthcare service — includes digital technologies that are able to generate valuable intelligence for making quick and informed decisions. Yair Paska, Forbes, 13 Oct. 2021 Just as the early in-state commits require a special attribute, so do those living elsewhere. Stephen Means, cleveland, 1 Sep. 2021 If a majority of tasters ranked a fraction as strong in a tactile attribute, the researchers further purified it to pinpoint the exact compounds responsible. ABC News, 29 Aug. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Ecuador's penitentiaries are seeing a wave of brutal violence authorities attribute to prison gangs linked to international drug cartels fighting for control. Fox News, 13 Nov. 2021 That is troubling for some clinicians, who attribute disparities in cervical cancer incidence and mortality to lower access to screening. Melba Newsome, Scientific American, 12 Nov. 2021 Sufferers can also mistakenly attribute the discomfort to dental or eye pain, Dr. Newman says. Lisa Bain, Good Housekeeping, 10 Nov. 2021 Burkina Faso was once regarded as a beacon of peaceful coexistence in the region, which some attribute to its rich cultural scene. Sam Mednick, ajc, 16 Oct. 2021 Most economists and the Fed attribute that to the public expecting inflation to always revert to 2% and thus not changing price or wage setting behavior in response to temporary disturbances. Greg Ip, WSJ, 13 Oct. 2021 Investigations by Mother Jones and The Atlantic attribute this decline to racist government policies, discriminatory lending practices, white vigilantism, and police violence. April Fisher, USA TODAY, 11 Oct. 2021 While most wildfire agencies attribute about 10 percent of blazes to arson, Nordskog said the real number could be twice as high — a result of decades of officials' prioritizing suppression over investigations. NBC News, 28 Sep. 2021 Salvation, Dante will discover, requires the surrender of precisely that attribute to which he is most attached as an artist, a lover, and a man: his ego. Judith Thurman, The New Yorker, 13 Sep. 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

19 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Attribute.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.

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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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