at·​tri·​bu·​tion | \ˌa-trə-ˈbyü-shən \
plural attributions

Definition of attribution 

1 : the act of attributing something especially : the ascribing of a work (as of literature or art) to a particular author or artist

2 : an ascribed quality, character, or right Supernatural powers were attributions of the gods.

3 psychology : the interpretive process by which people make judgments about the causes of their own behavior and the behavior of others Psychologists have long documented what they call the fundamental attribution error, the tendency for people to explain human behavior in terms of the traits of individual actors, even when powerful situational forces are at work.— Erica Goode

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Other Words from attribution

attributional \-​sh(ə-​)nᵊl \ adjective

Examples of attribution in a Sentence

a genuine respect for one another is one of the most commonly cited attributions of a happily married couple

Recent Examples on the Web

Leonardo experimented ceaselessly and didn’t sign paintings, making attribution a challenge. John Hooper, WSJ, "Exhibits Mark 500 Years of Leonardo da Vinci, the Original Renaissance Man," 31 Oct. 2018 Where Obama and Shapiro differ sharply in their explanation is in the attribution of blame. Ezra Klein, Vox, "Ben Shapiro’s revealing explanation for Donald Trump’s rise: it’s all Obama’s fault," 7 Sep. 2018 Though these attributions were already widely assumed, the White House's public acknowledgement is a key step as both the government and private sector grapple with how to respond. Lily Hay Newman, WIRED, "The Worst Cybersecurity Breaches of 2018 So Far," 9 July 2018 But such elaborate attributions were often used, winkingly, by Greek fantasists. James Romm, WSJ, "‘The Search for Atlantis’ Review: Enchanted Island," 4 Oct. 2018 These reports, called attribution studies, can take months to compile. Alissa Walker, Curbed, "Hurricane Florence will dump up to 50 percent more rainfall due to climate change," 13 Sep. 2018 One can imagine a similar Article 5 umbrella of protection could extend to satellites, which can be jammed or hacked from the ground without much attribution. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "Now NATO Says Russian “Hybrid Warfare” Could Start a Real War," 13 July 2018 Over the years the picture’s attribution shifted among artists, including Leonardo, and settled on his friend Lorenzo di Credi, a fellow Verrocchio alum. Brenda Cronin, WSJ, "Leonardo in an Art Workshop: The Boy Most Likely to Succeed," 15 June 2018 According to one analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leafy vegetables were responsible for 22% of foodborne illnesses from 1998 to 2008, the latest period for which detailed attribution data is available. Caitlin Dewey,, "Romaine lettuce made 172 people sick. Government investigators might never know why," 31 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'attribution.' 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 attribution

1598, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for attribution

see attribute entry 1

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Last Updated

7 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for attribution

The first known use of attribution was in 1598

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More Definitions for attribution


at·​tri·​bu·​tion | \ˌa-trə-ˈbyü-shən \

Legal Definition of attribution 

: a rule in tax law that in certain cases deems property owned by one person or business entity to be owned by another or others

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a nest or breeding place

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