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

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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 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 Press’ local roots also are an important attribute for a fledgling team trying to establish a foothold in a crowded sports landscape. Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, 24 Aug. 2021 For a surveyor trying to find the closest length match, this is a key attribute. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, 16 Aug. 2021 Humility, however, is one Quaker attribute that Pearson never exhibited — in his career or his personal life. Washington Post, 9 July 2021 Ah the Spotted Lanternfly has at least 1 positive attribute: feeding heavily on multifloral rose, another invasive from China... Aimee Picchi, CBS News, 8 Oct. 2021 Williams is endlessly interested in the attribute of spirit and who or what possesses it. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, 20 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Health officials attribute the current increase in COVID-19 cases among children in the U.S. to the highly transmissible delta variant. oregonlive, 18 Aug. 2021 Indiana is mirroring a surge in cases and hospitalizations seen around the country, a rise that public health officials attribute to the dominant and highly transmissible delta variant. Shari Rudavsky, The Indianapolis Star, 13 Aug. 2021 Public health officials in the state and elsewhere attribute the worsening spread to the very contagious delta variant and low vaccination rates. Star Tribune, 2 Aug. 2021 Officials attribute part of the reason for the discrepancies to messages repeated in conservative media that question why people need the vaccine and that President Joe Biden's attempts to get the country vaccinated amount to government overreach. Kaitlan Collins, CNN, 15 July 2021 Public health officials attribute the divergence of the figures to the success of Britain’s vaccination program. Danica Kirka, ajc, 4 July 2021 Officials attribute the declines in premiums to a 2019 reinsurance program created by the state that helps insurers cover the costs of their most expensive beneficiaries. Meredith Cohn,, 15 June 2021 Massport officials attribute the discrepancy to disruptions to business and student travel, noting that airlines are focusing more on leisure travel., 4 May 2021 County officials attribute the recent uptick to the spread of the transmissible coronavirus variant first discovered in the United Kingdom, known as B.1.1.7. Aidin Vaziri, San Francisco Chronicle, 3 May 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

26 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Attribute.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Oct. 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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