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at·​tri·​bute ˈa-trə-ˌbyüt How to pronounce attribute (audio)
: a quality, character, or characteristic ascribed to someone or something
has leadership attributes
: 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
grammar : a word ascribing a quality
especially : adjective


2 of 2


at·​trib·​ute ə-ˈtri-ˌbyüt How to pronounce attribute (audio)
attributed; attributing

transitive verb

: to explain (something) by indicating a cause
He attributed his success to hard work.
: to regard as a characteristic of a person or thing
should not attribute adult reasoning to children
: to reckon as made or originated in an indicated fashion
attributed the invention to a Russian
attributable adjective

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.

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

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
Recent Examples on the Web
Of those attributes, the faces’ proportionality, familiarity, memorability, and the perception of lifelike eyes ranked highest for test subjects. Andrew Paul, Popular Science, 15 Nov. 2023 Though, Link isn’t just courageous—as in, a person who, among other attributes, exhibits courage. WIRED, 9 Nov. 2023 One of the most notable attributes between them is that Pacific sailfish grow larger on average than Atlantic sailfish. Joe Cermele, Field & Stream, 9 Nov. 2023 The couple invite Zach over to their apartment for dinner to assess his physical and emotional attributes. Zack Sharf, Variety, 6 Nov. 2023 And this association with snakes survived well into the Middle Ages, with medieval authors and artists stressing the animal's serpentine attributes. Sam Walters, Discover Magazine, 30 Oct. 2023 In addition to the musical’s sonic attributes, the message is what is truly important. Okla Jones, Essence, 28 Oct. 2023 Those claims worked best when aligned with core product attribute claims. Tensie Whelan, Fortune, 17 Oct. 2023 Unique WebKit attributes are one crucial ingredient in the attack. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, 25 Oct. 2023
But some historians also attribute the marriage’s demise to Joséphine’s extravagant spending. Nathan Smith, Smithsonian Magazine, 21 Nov. 2023 Cloud Music attributed the higher gross margin to the gain in subscriptions and cost control measures. Glenn Peoples, Billboard, 20 Nov. 2023 The rescue teams attributed the person’s survival to Kourinos’ heroic act. Charna Flam, Peoplemag, 17 Nov. 2023 Some of Tumblr’s new user base might be attributed to new ownership. Allegra Rosenberg, The Verge, 17 Nov. 2023 But during the meeting, Mr. Licht attributed the decision to budget constraints. Benjamin Mullin, New York Times, 15 Nov. 2023 When asked why Fox so plainly misjudged its legal case, Stelter is somewhat puzzled, attributing it, at least initially, to hubris. Paolo Confino, Fortune, 15 Nov. 2023 Benchmark analyst Mike Hickey attributes the underperformance to the challenges of the CBD market, particularly regulatory uncertainties and rising competition. WSJ, 13 Nov. 2023 However, the group’s autonomy, which analysts attribute as perhaps the most important element of the group’s success – if also one of the key factors that caused friction with military command – remains under threat, even as Putin appears willing to put Prigozhin’s son in command. Peter Aitken, Fox News, 10 Nov. 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.

Word History


Noun and Verb

Middle English, from Latin attributus, past participle of attribuere to attribute, from ad- + tribuere to bestow — more at tribute

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1530, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Cite this Entry

“Attribute.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
at·​tri·​bute ˈa-trə-ˌbyüt How to pronounce attribute (audio)
: a quality belonging to a particular person or thing
: a word that indicates a quality
especially : adjective


2 of 2 verb
at·​trib·​ute ə-ˈtrib-yət How to pronounce attribute (audio)
attributed; attributing
: to explain as the cause of
attribute our success to hard work
: to think of as likely to be a quality of a person or thing
attribute stubbornness to mules
attributable adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on attribute

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