[ verb uh-trib-yoot; noun a-truh-byoot ]
See synonyms for: attributeattributedattributesattributing on

verb (used with object),at·trib·ut·ed, at·trib·ut·ing.
  1. to regard as resulting from a specified cause; consider as caused by something indicated (usually followed by to): She attributed his bad temper to ill health.

  2. to consider as a quality or characteristic of the person, thing, group, etc., indicated: He attributed intelligence to his colleagues.

  1. to consider as made by the one indicated, especially with strong evidence but in the absence of conclusive proof: to attribute a painting to an artist.

  2. to regard as produced by or originating in the time, period, place, etc., indicated; credit; assign: to attribute a work to a particular period; to attribute a discovery to a particular country.

  1. something attributed as belonging to a person, thing, group, etc.; a quality, character, characteristic, or property: Sensitivity is one of his attributes.

  2. something used as a symbol of a particular person, office, or status: A scepter is one of the attributes of a king.

  1. Grammar. a word or phrase that is syntactically subordinate to another and serves to limit, identify, particularize, describe, or supplement the meaning of the form with which it is in construction. In the red house, red is an attribute of house.

  2. Fine Arts. an object associated with or symbolic of a character, office, or quality, as the keys of St. Peter or the lion skin of Hercules.

  3. Philosophy. (in the philosophy of Spinoza) any of the essential qualifications of God, thought and extension being the only ones known.: Compare mode1 (def. 4b).

  4. Logic. (in a proposition) that which is affirmed or denied concerning the subject.

  5. Obsolete. distinguished character; reputation.

Origin of attribute

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English, from Latin attribūtus “allotted, assigned, imputed to” (past participle of attribuere ), equivalent to at- “toward” + tribū- (stem of tribuere “to assign (to tribes), classify, ascribe”; see at-, tribe) + -tus past participle suffix

synonym study For attribute

1. Attribute, ascribe, impute imply definite origin. Attribute and ascribe are often used interchangeably, to imply that something originates with a definite person or from a definite cause. Ascribe, however, has neutral implications; whereas, possibly because of an association with tribute, attribute is coming to have a complimentary connotation: to ascribe an accident to carelessness; to attribute one's success to a friend's encouragement. Impute has gained uncomplimentary connotations, and usually means to accuse or blame someone or something as a cause or origin: to impute an error to him. 5. See quality.

Other words from attribute

  • at·trib·ut·a·ble, adjective
  • at·trib·ut·er, at·trib·u·tor, noun
  • mis·at·trib·ute, verb, mis·at·trib·ut·ed, mis·at·trib·ut·ing.
  • re·at·trib·ute, verb (used with object), re·at·trib·ut·ed, re·at·trib·ut·ing.
  • un·at·trib·ut·a·bly, adverb
  • un·at·trib·ut·ed, adjective
  • well-at·trib·ut·ed, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use attribute in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for attribute


  1. (tr usually foll by to) to regard as belonging (to), produced (by), or resulting (from); ascribe (to): to attribute a painting to Picasso

  1. a property, quality, or feature belonging to or representative of a person or thing

  2. an object accepted as belonging to a particular office or position

  1. grammar

    • an adjective or adjectival phrase

    • an attributive adjective

  2. logic the property, quality, or feature that is affirmed or denied concerning the subject of a proposition

Origin of attribute

C15: from Latin attribuere to associate with, from tribuere to give

Derived forms of attribute

  • attributable, adjective
  • attributer or attributor, noun
  • attribution (ˌætrɪˈbjuːʃən), noun

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012