at·​tri·​bute | \ ˈa-trə-ˌbyüt How to pronounce attribute (audio) \

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 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 When a cookie has a secure attribute, the cookie is included in an HTTP request only if the request is transmitted over a secure channel. Akhilesh Agarwal, Forbes, 3 Sep. 2021 The growing consensus among major disciplines is that these advancements in technology will drive the need for the critical attribute of creativity. Neil Moore, Rolling Stone, 27 May 2021 International student enrollment had already declined nationwide by 11% between 2016 and 2019, a drop some attribute to the Trump administration’s hardline China stances and stricter visa policies. Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times, 21 May 2021 Beyond their statlines, the biggest attribute both Hosendove and Hurst add to Oregon is their game experience, which the Ducks sorely lack. James Crepea | The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, 20 May 2021 His mental toughness might be his greatest attribute., 11 Sep. 2021 Shaffrey is the motor for Maryvale’s offense, and her coach says her biggest attribute is her tenacity and her attitude. Mike Frainie,, 1 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Orlovsky also didn’t attribute Mayfield’s inaccuracy issues to possible left shoulder pain. cleveland, 6 Oct. 2021 And while the nation has seen rapid migration during COVID-19, experts do not attribute the increase in the suburbs to the pandemic. Vanessa Swales, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 30 Sep. 2021 But Bishop does not attribute the sag in conference attendance to factional infighting or loss of interest in the wake of Trump's one-term presidency. Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, 24 Sep. 2021 Altstadt said TriMet doesn’t attribute worker shortages to the apprenticeship program changes. oregonlive, 18 Sep. 2021 Analyst1 does not attribute the rise in organized criminal ransomware directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin or the Kremlin. Dan Patterson, CBS News, 12 Aug. 2021 But Davidson doesn’t attribute the disappointment of his rookie season entirely to his extended time on the sideline. Mark Inabinett |, al, 6 Aug. 2021 Sonora did not attribute her peerless diving abilities to other senses strengthening. T Kira Madden,, 3 Aug. 2021 Our bear case scenario assumes Coinbase will continue to grow as an exchange but does not attribute any value to future products or services. Moneyshow, Forbes, 11 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

14 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Attribute.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for attribute



English Language Learners Definition of attribute

: a usually good quality or feature that someone or something has


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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