The middle-distance runner became the first sportsperson from Ethiopia to win an award in any category at the prestigious event, which began in 2000.
Dibaba was rewarded for her 2014 season in which she set world indoor records for 1500m and 3000m as well as a world indoor best for two miles.
Outdoors, she went on to record world-leading times over 5000m and 2000m before ending her season with 3000m victory at the IAAF Continental Cup in Marrakech.
On a night in which Renaud Lavillenie, Valerie Adams and Jo Pavey were nominated for other awards, Dibaba was the only winner from the sport of athletics.
Adams was nominated in the same category as Dibaba, while Lavillenie was nominated for the sportsman of the year award, which was given to tennis star Novak Djokovic. Pavey was one of the contenders for the comeback of the year award, which eventually went to rugby player Schalk Burger.
But other legendary athletes played a part in the ceremony. USA’s 400m world record-holder Michael Johnson presented Chinese tennis player Li Na with the exceptional achievement award, while recently retired sprint hurdler Liu Xiang joined Chinese opera singer Liao Changyong on stage for a surprise performance.