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.
to consider as a quality or characteristic of the person, thing, group, etc., indicated:
He attributed intelligence to his colleagues.
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.
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.
something attributed as belonging to a person, thing, group, etc.; a quality, character, characteristic, or property:
Sensitivity is one of his attributes.
something used as a symbol of a particular person, office, or status:
A scepter is one of the attributes of a king.
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.
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.
Philosophy. (in the philosophy of Spinoza) any of the essential qualifications of God, thought and extension being the only ones known.
Compare 1 (def 4b).
Logic. (in a proposition) that which is affirmed or denied concerning the subject.
Obsolete. distinguished character; reputation.
Contemporary Examples

But I know by now to be very careful about attributing too much significance to a report like that.
Does the Slut Gene Exist? Casey Schwartz December 6, 2010

attributing the last four years to either Republicans or Democrats is myopic American parochialism.
Who’s Fault the Financial Crisis? Megan McArdle November 20, 2012

He is taking all the merit and attributing all the disasters to others.
Super Mario’s Parting Shots at Silvio Berlusconi Barbie Latza Nadeau December 28, 2012

Historical Examples

We are, however, attributing too much to this formidable power.
Female Scripture Biographies, Vol. I Francis Augustus Cox

You may persist, if you will, in attributing to me wrongs I never inflicted.
Tom Burke Of “Ours”, Volume II (of II) Charles James Lever

I blundered—God knows how—into attributing the tremors of the lovers to “the Woods of Madeira,” by which they were surrounded.
Life of Lord Byron, Vol. 6 (of 6) Thomas Moore

But these are my own reflections and I am by no means sure that I am right in attributing them to him.
The Works of Edgar Allan Poe Edgar Allan Poe

We can hardly go further than this in attributing emotional expression to architecture.
Scientific American Supplement, No. 633, February 18, 1888 Various

Many authors have had the idea of attributing them to the worship of the sun.
Primitive Man Louis Figuier

We are for ever attributing personal Unities to imaginary Aggregates.
The Complete Poetical Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge Samuel Taylor Coleridge

verb (əˈtrɪbjuːt)
(transitive) usually foll by to. to regard as belonging (to), produced (by), or resulting (from); ascribe (to): to attribute a painting to Picasso
noun (ˈætrɪˌbjuːt)
a property, quality, or feature belonging to or representative of a person or thing
an object accepted as belonging to a particular office or position

an adjective or adjectival phrase
an attributive adjective

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

late 14c., “assign, bestow,” from Latin attributus, past participle of attribuere “assign to, add, bestow;” figuratively “to attribute, ascribe, impute,” from ad- “to” + tribuere “assign, give, bestow” (see tribute). Related: Attributed; attributing.

“quality ascribed to someone,” late 14c., from Latin attributum “anything attributed,” noun use of neuter of attributus (see attribute (v.)). Distinguished from the verb by pronunciation.


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  • Attributive noun

    a noun that occurs before and modifies another noun, as toy in toy store or tour in tour group. noun a noun used like an adjective and modifies another noun, e.g. government policy, administration policy, portrait painter Examples An attributive noun can also be called a noun adjunct.

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