from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adv. In reality or fact; actually.
  • adj. Actual: de facto segregation.
  • adj. Exercising power or serving a function without being legally or officially established: a de facto government; a de facto nuclear storage facility.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adv. In practice; in actual use or existence, regardless of official or legal status.
  • adj. In fact or in practice; in actual use or existence, regardless of official or legal status. (Often opposed to de jure.)
  • n. A legally undeclared spouse.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Actually; in fact; in reality.
  • adv. See De facto.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • In fact; in reality; actually existing, whether with or without legal or moral right: as, a government or a governor de facto.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adv. in reality or fact
  • adj. existing in fact whether with lawful authority or not


Latin dē factō : , from, according to + factō, ablative of factum, fact.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin de facto, de ("from") + ablative of factum ("fact, deed, act") (Wiktionary)


  • Impressments under various guises had become fairly commonplace during the lean winters of the previous two years, but this edict would establish Washington as a de facto military dictator.

    Robert Morris

  • Hungary had been a satellite of the Hitler-Mussolini axis, was de facto occupied by German troops … and the end of World War II really meant liberation from the horrors of Nazi cruelty….

    Enemies of the People

  • A classified Marine intelligence assessment dated August 17, 2006, found that AQI had become the de facto government of the western Iraqi province of Anbar, which is strategically important as it borders Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia and makes up about a third of the landmass of Iraq.

    The Longest War

  • The then de facto ruler of Sudan, Hassan Turabi, was closely allied to Saddam, while he was also playing host to terrorist groups from around the Middle East.

    The Longest War

  • The assessment made a number of key points—that the situation in Afghanistan was “serious,” that the Taliban, as the Kagans had described, were running a de facto government in southern Afghanistan with shadow governors, sharia courts, tax collectors, and even Taliban ombudsmen to handle the complaints of the population, and that their key objectives were the control of Kandahar and Khost provinces in southeastern Afghanistan.

    The Longest War

  • Some say it all began with Colonel Edward M. House, a man neither elected nor appointed to any office, who operated as Woodrow Wilsons de facto secretary of state during the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.

    In the Shadow of the Oval Office

  • Loving thanks to my grandmother, Sylvia Greenwald, for being a constant believer and my de facto publicist for Northeastern Pennsylvania.

    Miss Misery

  • It was natural enough, in the circumstances, for Tafa to have addressed Phoebe as “Mistress. ” As Tafa was currently subject to us, and Phoebe was with us, this put Phoebe in a position of de facto priority to her.

    Magicians of Gor

  • She was descended from Henry VII, and her legitimacy was un impugned She was prepared to recognize Elizabeth as de facto queen, but her uncles had pointed out that the treaty did not differentiate between de facto and de jure.

    Mary Queen Of Scotland And The Isles

  • Despite a United Nations plan for Korea-wide elections, the two de facto Korean states, the DPRK in the north and the Republic of Korea ROK in the south, were politically and economically separated.

    The J Curve


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  • I just heard someone say “de facto�? in air quotes. That’s discombobulating.

    Edit: Again!

    October 16, 2009