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 The city said the skatepark pays tribute to the original design while delivering modern features that are exciting to both street and Olympic-style skateboarders. Paul Gattis |, al, 13 Sep. 2023 Next cover story series, Shania Twain paid tribute to Kelsea Ballerini, who is among the 100 rising stars being honored. Sadie Bell, Peoplemag, 13 Sep. 2023 This is true, and a tribute to the GOP investigation, but all of it has happened through a vigorous oversight process that has operated outside of impeachment. The Editors, National Review, 13 Sep. 2023 The evening also paid tribute to hip-hop’s impact, influence and break culture with beats provided by DJ Fleg. Okla Jones, Essence, 12 Sep. 2023 The brand has been around for more than a century, and the new 10 expression is meant to pay tribute to the way the vodka was made when it was founded in 1910. Jonah Flicker, Robb Report, 12 Sep. 2023 Buffett’s daughter Delaney also cited his reveler’s spirit and winning grin in a Sept. 7 tribute posted to Instagram. Nardine Saad, Los Angeles Times, 11 Sep. 2023 And art lovers, too: Smith’s neon sign lights up in a sequence that imitates Ayers’s unmistakable rhythm, a perfect tribute. Kriston Capps, Washington Post, 11 Sep. 2023 Ferrari and Alfa Romeo will race in special liveries to pay tribute to their heritage at their home race, the Italian Grand Prix. Victoria Hernandez, USA TODAY, 2 Sep. 2023 See More

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 23 Sep. 2023.

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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