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From Old French ascrivre (inscribe, attribute, impute), from Latin āscrībō, from ad (to) + scrībō (write), from Proto-Indo-European *skrep-, *skreb- (to engrave). Cognate with Old English screpan (to scrape, scratch).


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /əˈskɹaɪb/
  • (file)


ascribe (third-person singular simple present ascribes, present participle ascribing, simple past and past participle ascribed)

  1. (transitive) To attribute a cause or characteristic to someone or something.
    One may ascribe these problems to the federal government; however, at this stage it is unclear what caused them.
    • 1646, Thomas Browne, “Of the Same [i.e., the Blacknesse of Negroes]”, in Pseudodoxia Epidemica: Or, Enquiries into Very Many Received Tenents, and Commonly Presumed Truths, London: Printed for Tho. Harper for Edvvard Dod, OCLC 838860010; Pseudodoxia Epidemica: Or, Enquiries into Very Many Received Tenents, and Commonly Presumed Truths. [], book 6, 2nd corrected and much enlarged edition, London: Printed by A. Miller, for Edw[ard] Dod and Nath. Ekins, [], 1650, OCLC 152706203, page 282:
      Thus the Aſſe having a peculiar mark of a croſſe made by a black liſt down his back, and another athwart, or at right angles down his ſhoulders; common opinion aſcribes this figure unto a peculiar ſignation; ſince that beaſt had the honour to bear our Saviour on his back.
  2. (transitive) To attribute a book, painting or any work of art or literature to a writer or creator.
    It is arguable as to whether we can truly ascribe this play to Shakespeare.
    • 2012, William Matthews, The Tragedy of Arthur[1], University of California Press, page 68:
      [] and two enormous Scottish poems, the Buik of Alexander, which has been improbably ascribed to Barbour, and Sir Gilbert Hay's Buik of Alexander the Conquerour; one nearly complete Prose Life of Alexander and fragments of four others; a stanzaic translation of the Fuerres de Gadres which survives only in a fragment, the Romance of Cassamus, and three separate translations of the Secreta Secretorum.
  3. (nonstandard, with to) To believe in or agree with; subscribe.
    • 1997, James A. Russell & ‎José Miguel Fernández-Dols, The Psychology of Facial Expression, →ISBN, page 133:
      A survey of the literature reveals that many who have commented on the signaling of animals ascribe to the view that all of their communicative signals are manifestations of emotion or affect.
    • 2010, Beverley Joan Taylor, Reflective Practice for Healthcare Professionals: A Practical Guide, →ISBN:
      If we take a holistic view of human beings, we ascribe to the idea that humans are multidimensional and that they are greater than the sum of their parts – for example, their physical, psychological and spiritual aspects.
    • 2012, Joan Friedlander, Business from Bed, →ISBN:
      There are plenty of people who ascribe to the idea that, if they only have a short time on this earth, they want to be “used up” when it's their time to go.
    • 2012, Mike Nappa, The Jesus Survey: What Christian Teens Really Believe and Why, →ISBN:
      And the truth is, I don't ascribe to the belief that God is more successful at drawing women to him than men.


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