tr.v. at·trib·ut·ed, at·trib·ut·ing, at·trib·utes
1. To regard as arising from a particular cause or source; ascribe: attributed their failure to a lack of preparation.
2. To regard (a work, for example) as belonging to or produced by a specified agent, place, or time: attributed the painting to Titian; attributed the vase to 18th-century Japan.
n. at·tri·bute (ătrə-byt′)
1. A quality or characteristic inherent in or ascribed to someone or something.
2. An object associated with and serving to identify a character, personage, or office: Lightning bolts are an attribute of Zeus.
3. Grammar A word or phrase syntactically subordinate to another word or phrase that it modifies; for example, my sister's and brown in my sister's brown dog.
[Latin attribuere, attribūt- : ad-, ad- + tribuere, to allot; see TRIBUTE.]
at·tribut·er, at·tribu·tor n.
Synonyms: attribute, ascribe, impute, credit, assign, refer
These verbs mean to consider as resulting from or belonging to a person or thing. Attribute and ascribe, often interchangeable, have the widest application: The historian discovered a new symphony attributed to Mozart. The museum displayed an invention ascribed to the 15th century.
Impute is often used in laying guilt or fault to another: "We usually ascribe good; but impute evil" (Samuel Johnson).
Credit usually refers to the acknowledgment of another for an accomplishment or contribution: "Some excellent remarks were made on immortality, but mainly borrowed from and credited to Plato" (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.)
Assign and refer are often used to classify or categorize: Program music as a genre is usually assigned to the Romantic period. "A person thus prepared will be able to refer any particular history he takes up to its proper place in universal history" (Joseph Priestley). See Also Synonyms at quality.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.