trib·​ute ˈtri-(ˌ)byüt How to pronounce tribute (audio)
: something given or contributed voluntarily as due or deserved
especially : a gift or service showing respect, gratitude, or affection
a floral tribute
: something (such as material evidence or a formal attestation) that indicates the worth, virtue, or effectiveness of the one in question
the design is a tribute to his ingenuity
: a payment by one ruler or nation to another in acknowledgment of submission or as the price of protection
also : the tax levied for such a payment
: an excessive tax, rental, or tariff imposed by a government, sovereign, lord, or landlord
: an exorbitant charge levied by a person or group having the power of coercion
: the liability to pay tribute

Did you know?

Tribute originally took the form of things given from a weaker group to the dominant power of a region—a bit like the "protection money" the Mafia gets from small businesses after making them offers they can't refuse, though the older form of tribute actually did buy the weaker group some protection from enemy forces. Tribute could come in the form of valuables, cattle, or even produce, and might include the loan of warriors to strengthen the ruler's army. But when we "pay tribute" today, it's generally in the form of praise. And when we say, for instance, that a successful school "is a tribute to" the vision of its founder, we mean that its success is itself a form of praise for the person who founded it. And a "tribute band" is a rock group intended to honor a great band of the past.

Choose the Right Synonym for tribute

encomium, eulogy, panegyric, tribute, citation mean a formal expression of praise.

encomium implies enthusiasm and warmth in praising a person or a thing.

received encomiums from literary critics

eulogy applies to a prepared speech or writing extolling the virtues and services of a person.

delivered the eulogy at the funeral service

panegyric suggests an elaborate often poetic compliment.

her lyrical memoir was a panegyric to her mentor

tribute implies deeply felt praise conveyed either through words or through a significant act.

the concert was a musical tribute to the early jazz masters

citation applies to the formal praise of a person offered in a military dispatch or in awarding an honorary degree.

earned a citation for bravery

Examples of tribute in a Sentence

The concert was a tribute to the musician. Yellow ribbons were tied on trees as a tribute to the soldiers at war. an event at which artists and musicians paid tribute to the famous composer The country was forced to pay tribute. The ruler paid a tribute every year.
Recent Examples on the Web Usher, who received an introduction from Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, watched as a parade of artists paid tribute to his career. Steven J. Horowitz, Variety, 1 July 2024 The name was a tribute to La Revue Blanche, a nineteenth-century publication edited by the art critic and anarchist Félix Fénéon. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, 1 July 2024 The memorial trail first began as a path made by family and friends, and over ensuing months was improved by the BLM, Forest Service, Air Force cadets, and 100-plus volunteers as a tribute to the 14 who lost their lives—and firefighters everywhere. Alison Osius, Outside Online, 1 July 2024 Several stars are paying tribute to Martin Mull after his death at the age of 80. Kimberlee Speakman, Peoplemag, 29 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for tribute 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'tribute.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English tribut, from Latin tributum, from neuter of tributus, past participle of tribuere to allot, bestow, grant, pay, from tribus tribe

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

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

Dictionary Entries Near tribute

Cite this Entry

“Tribute.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


trib·​ute ˈtrib-ˌyüt How to pronounce tribute (audio)
: a payment made by one ruler or nation to another to show obedience or to obtain peace or protection
: a tax to raise money for a tribute
: the obligation to pay tribute
nations under tribute
: something (as a gift or speech of praise) that is given or performed to show appreciation, respect, or affection
floral tribute

More from Merriam-Webster on tribute

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