Attribute vs attribute

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Attribute and attribute are spelled identically but are pronounced differently and have different meanings, which makes them heteronyms. Heteronyms exist because of our ever-changing English language, and these words with the same spelling and different pronunciation and meaning are a challenge for those who wish to learn to speak English. It can be difficult to learn how to spell different words that look the same and how to use them in sentences, because they are easily confused. The way the pronunciations and definitions differ can be confusing even to native English speakers when attempting to learn vocabulary correctly. Phonological spelling and spelling rules do not always work, and most people avoid misspelling and misuse by studying vocabulary words from spelling lists, enhancing their literacy skills through spelling practice, and learning words in English by studying a dictionary of the English language. English words are also spelled according to their etymologies rather than their sound. For instance, the word tear meaning a liquid drop that falls from an eye is derived from the Old English word tear, meaning a drop or nectar; tear meaning to pull apart comes from the Old English word tearan, which means to lacerate. Heteronyms are confusing words and are commonly misspelled words because of the confusion that arises from words that are pronounced differently but are spelled the same and come from a different etymology. They are often used in puns and riddles. When reading, it is sometimes difficult to know which word is being used in a sentence and how to pronounce the word phonetically. A spell checker will rarely find this type of mistake in English vocabulary, so do not rely on spell check for these commonly confused words but instead, learn to spell. Even a participant in a spelling bee like the National Spelling Bee will ask for an example of a heteronym in a sentence, so that she understands which word she is to spell by using context clues. Do not confuse heteronyms with homophones, which are two or more words that are pronounced in the same way but are spelled differently and have different meanings like sow and sew; do not confuse them with homonyms, which are words that have the same spelling and pronunciation but different meanings like spring as in spring forth and spring as in the season of the year. We will examine the definitions of the words attribute and attribute, where these words came from, and some examples of their use in sentences.

Attribute (A tri byoot), pronounced with the accent on the first syllable, is a noun that means a characteristic, a quality, something that is peculiar or idiosyncratic to someone or something. The word attribute was first used in the 1300s and is derived from the Latin word attribuere, which means to allot or assign.

Attribute (a TRI byoot), pronounced with the accent on the second syllable, is a verb that means to designate something as a cause of a situation, to credit a quote or piece of art to a particular period or a particular person, to assign a particular quality to an idea or a situation. The word attribute is also derived from the word Latin word attribuere. Related words are attributes, attributed, attributing, attribution.


The confidence may occasionally come across as arrogance on the field, but it is an attribute in his game, the scouts said. (The Dallas Morning News)

According to Graziano’s theory, the attention schema is an attribute of the brain that allows us to monitor mental activity—tracking where our focus is directed and helping us predict where it might be drawn in the future—much the way that other mental models oversee, for instance, the position of our arms and legs in space. (The New Yorker)

At the same time he described him as a “double-faced” politician who was difficult to understand, a description that matches well his attribute as a sharp-witted master tactician who was always ahead of his political opponents during his reign. (The Daily Nation)

Florida has led in sign-ups for several years in a row, a dynamic experts attribute to state lawmakers’ decision not to expand Medicaid and the high number of uninsured people, among other factors. (The Miami Herald)

The importance many people attribute to their “like” count has worried mental health advocates, according to PBS. (The Huntington News)