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Attribute vs. Characteristic: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
An attribute is a quality or feature regarded as inherent in or ascribed to someone or something, while a characteristic is a distinctive trait or feature typical of a person, thing, or group.
Attribute vs. Characteristic

Key Differences

An attribute often implies a quality ascribed to an object or a person, suggesting a degree of abstraction or subjectivity. A characteristic is a distinguishing feature that is often observable and concrete.
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Nov 14, 2023
Attributes can be physical or abstract qualities, like color or intelligence. Characteristics are generally specific and defining features, such as height in people or leaf shape in plants.
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In describing objects or persons, attributes can be seen as supplemental qualities, adding to the overall understanding. Characteristics are usually essential qualities that define or identify.
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Attributes can sometimes be subjective, varying based on perspective or context. Characteristics tend to be more objective and universally acknowledged.
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In usage, attributes are often discussed in terms of something being attributed to an entity. Characteristics are typically discussed as inherent qualities or properties of the entity.
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Comparison Chart

Definition

A quality or feature regarded as inherent in or ascribed to something
A distinctive trait or feature typical of a person, thing, or group
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Nature

Can be physical or abstract
Usually specific and defining
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Purpose

Adds to the overall understanding of an entity
Defines or identifies an entity
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Subjectivity

Can be subjective and vary by perspective
More objective and universally recognized
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Usage in Context

Discussed in terms of being attributed to something
Discussed as inherent qualities
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Attribute and Characteristic Definitions

Attribute

An inherent or ascribed property of something.
The attribute of durability is essential in outdoor gear.
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Characteristic

A feature that marks something as distinct or individual.
The characteristic aroma of freshly baked bread filled the bakery.
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Attribute

A descriptive feature of an object or person.
Bright colors are a key attribute of her artwork.
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Characteristic

An identifiable trait that sets something apart.
The characteristic sound of the violin is easy to distinguish in an orchestra.
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Attribute

A trait that contributes to the identity or functionality of something.
The car's fuel efficiency is one of its best attributes.
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Characteristic

A distinguishing feature or quality of a person, thing, or group.
His sense of humor is a characteristic that makes him popular among his peers.
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Attribute

A quality or feature of a person, object, or concept.
Intelligence is an important attribute for success in academic pursuits.
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Characteristic

Being a feature that helps to distinguish a person or thing; distinctive
Heard my friend's characteristic laugh.
The stripes that are characteristic of the zebra.
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Attribute

A characteristic or quality that is part of someone's nature.
Honesty is an attribute she values highly in her friends.
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Characteristic

A feature that helps to identify, tell apart, or describe recognizably; a distinguishing mark or trait.
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Attribute

To regard as arising from a particular cause or source; ascribe
Attributed their failure to a lack of preparation.
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Characteristic

(Mathematics) The integral part of a logarithm as distinguished from the mantissa
The characteristic of the logarithm 6.3214 is 6.
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Attribute

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.
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Characteristic

(Mathematics) The least number of times the multiplicative identity in a ring needs to be added to itself to reach the additive identity, or, if the additive identity is never reached, zero. The integers have a characteristic of zero; the integers modulo 12 have a characteristic of 12.
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Attribute

A quality or characteristic inherent in or ascribed to someone or something.
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Characteristic

Being a distinguishing feature of a person or thing.
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Attribute

An object associated with and serving to identify a character, personage, or office
Lightning bolts are an attribute of Zeus.
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Characteristic

A distinguishing feature of a person or thing.
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Attribute

(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.
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Characteristic

(mathematics) The integer part of a logarithm.
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Attribute

A characteristic or quality of a thing.
His finest attribute is his kindness.
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Characteristic

(nautical) The distinguishing features of a navigational light on a lighthouse etc by which it can be identified (colour, pattern of flashes etc.).
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Attribute

An object that is considered typical of someone or some function, in particular as an artistic convention.
The eagle and the bolt of lightning are attributes of Jove.
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Characteristic

For a given field or ring, a natural number that is either the smallest positive number n such that n instances of the multiplicative identity (1) summed together yield the additive identity (0) or, if no such number exists, the number 0.
The characteristic of a field, if non-zero, must be a prime number.
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Attribute

(grammar) A word that qualifies a noun.
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Characteristic

Pertaining to, or serving to constitute, the character; showing the character, or distinctive qualities or traits, of a person or thing; peculiar; distinctive.
Characteristic clearness of temper.
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Attribute

(logic) That which is predicated or affirmed of a subject; a predicate; an accident.
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Characteristic

A distinguishing trait, quality, or property; an element of character; that which characterized.
The characteristics of a true critic.
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Attribute

An option or setting belonging to some object.
This packet has its coherency attribute set to zero.
A file with the read-only attribute set cannot be overwritten.
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Characteristic

The integral part (whether positive or negative) of a logarithm.
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Attribute

(programming) A semantic item with which a method or other code element may be decorated.
Properties can be marked as obsolete with an attribute, which will cause the compiler to generate a warning if they are used.
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Characteristic

A prominent aspect of something;
The map showed roads and other features
Generosity is one of his best characteristics
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Attribute

In a Nutshell|page=536
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Characteristic

A distinguishing quality
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Attribute

A numeric value representing the colours of part of the screen display.
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Characteristic

The integer part (positive or negative) of the representation of a logarithm; in the expression log 643 = 2.808 the characteristic is 2
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Attribute

To ascribe (something) to a given cause, reason etc.
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Characteristic

Any measurable property of a device measured under closely specified conditions
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Attribute

To associate ownership or authorship of (something) to someone.
This poem is attributed to Browning.
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Characteristic

Typical or distinctive;
Heard my friend's characteristic laugh
Red and gold are the characteristic colors of autumn
Stripes characteristic of the zebra
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Attribute

To ascribe; to consider (something) as due or appropriate (to); to refer, as an effect to a cause; to impute; to assign; to consider as belonging (to).
We attribute nothing to God that hath any repugnancy or contradiction in it.
The merit of service is seldom attributed to the true and exact performer.
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Characteristic

An inherent trait that defines or identifies something.
The characteristic shape of the leaves helps to identify the plant species.
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Attribute

That which is attributed; a quality which is considered as belonging to, or inherent in, a person or thing; an essential or necessary property or characteristic.
But mercy is above this sceptered away; . . .It is an attribute to God himself.
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Characteristic

A typical or noticeable quality of someone or something.
Punctuality is a characteristic she prides herself on.
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Attribute

Reputation.
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Attribute

A conventional symbol of office, character, or identity, added to any particular figure; as, a club is the attribute of Hercules.
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Attribute

Quality, etc., denoted by an attributive; an attributive adjunct or adjective.
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Attribute

A construct whereby objects or individuals can be distinguished;
Self-confidence is not an endearing property
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Attribute

An abstraction belonging to or characteristic of an entity
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Attribute

Attribute or credit to;
We attributed this quotation to Shakespeare
People impute great cleverness to cats
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Attribute

Decide as to where something belongs in a scheme;
The biologist assigned the mushroom to the proper class
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

How is a characteristic different from an attribute?

A characteristic is a distinctive trait typical of a person, thing, or group, often more concrete than an attribute.
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Can attributes be subjective?

Yes, attributes can vary based on perspective or context.
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Can an attribute be physical?

Yes, attributes can be both physical or abstract.
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Are characteristics always visible?

Mostly, characteristics are observable and defining features.
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Can a person's attributes change over time?

Yes, personal attributes can evolve with experiences and circumstances.
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What is an attribute?

An attribute is a quality or feature regarded as inherent in or ascribed to something.
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How do attributes affect decision-making?

Attributes influence decision-making by providing key information.
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Are characteristics subjective or objective?

Characteristics are more objective and universally acknowledged.
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Do characteristics define a person's personality?

Yes, characteristics like traits and behaviors define personalities.
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How do attributes contribute to a product's appeal?

Attributes like design and functionality enhance a product's appeal.
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How do attributes relate to qualities?

Attributes are essentially qualities ascribed to a person or thing.
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Are physical characteristics important in biology?

Yes, physical characteristics are crucial in biological classification.
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Are characteristics important in identifying species?

Yes, characteristics are essential in species identification.
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Is a characteristic unique to an individual?

Not always, it can be a common feature shared by a group.
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Can characteristics be inherited?

Yes, many characteristics can be genetically inherited.
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Can organizations have attributes?

Yes, organizations can have attributes like culture or reputation.
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Can attributes be measured?

Some attributes, especially physical ones, can be measured.
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Do attributes play a role in branding?

Absolutely, brand attributes significantly impact consumer perception.
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Is 'color' an attribute or a characteristic?

It can be both, depending on the context of use.
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Are characteristics always positive?

No, characteristics can be neutral or even negative.
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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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