ac·​tu·​al | \ ˈak-ch(ə-w)əl How to pronounce actual (audio) , -sh(ə-w)əl; -chü-əl, -shü- \

Definition of actual

1a : existing in fact or reality actual events actual and imagined conditions
b : not false or apparent actual costs
c used for emphasisThis is the actual room in which my grandfather was born.
2 : existing or occurring at the time caught in the actual commission of a crime
3 obsolete : active

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Examples of actual in a Sentence

They signed the agreement in the spring, but the actual sale wasn't made until that summer. You deposit money in a bank account but the actual money is not held there. The actual cost of the repair was much higher than the estimate.
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Recent Examples on the Web The actual number of cases around the world is believed to be much higher than reported — perhaps 10 times higher in the U.S., according to the CDC — given testing limitations and the many mild cases that have gone unreported or unrecognized. Paola Pérez,, "Florida adds over 4,000 new coronavirus cases, 87 more resident deaths," 17 Oct. 2020 The actual number, according to the South Dakota Transportation Department, was over 460,000 — down just 7 percent from 2019. Washington Post, "How the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally may have spread coronavirus across the Upper Midwest," 17 Oct. 2020 The state suppresses the actual number in these instances for privacy protection. Arika Herron, The Indianapolis Star, "New state data gives insight into which Indiana schools have been hit hardest by COVID-19," 16 Oct. 2020 Most candidate vaccines listed by the World Health Organization don't contain that type of immunity-boosting agent, so the actual number of sharks needed for COVID-19 vaccines is likely to be far lower. Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY, "Sharks are killed to make effective vaccines. More may die as scientists develop one for COVID-19, conservationists warn," 15 Oct. 2020 The actual number may have been much higher, but many deaths were officially attributed to other causes, perhaps to protect women and their families. Rachel Benson Gold, Scientific American, "Lessons from before Abortion Was Legal," 13 Oct. 2020 Last month, the official COVID-19 global death toll exceeded 1 million people — a figure many experts say is far less than the actual number of casualties. Aidin Vaziri,, "Meet the people still sheltering in place in the Bay Area: ‘I don’t see an end to it’," 8 Oct. 2020 Because detecting child prostitution is difficult, the report conceded that the actual number was likely far higher. Smita Sharma, National Geographic, "Stolen lives: The harrowing story of two girls sold into sexual slavery," 28 Sep. 2020 However, other estimates based on antibody testing and other information have often placed the actual number of cases much higher than the number reported. Rich Exner, cleveland, "About 16,400 Ohioans currently have coronavirus, based on latest total of known cases," 23 Sep. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'actual.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of actual

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for actual

Middle English, "active, existing in fact," borrowed from Anglo-French & Late Latin; Anglo-French actuel, borrowed from Late Latin āctuālis, from Latin āctus act entry 1 + -ālis -al entry 1

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Time Traveler for actual

Time Traveler

The first known use of actual was in the 14th century

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Statistics for actual

Last Updated

20 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Actual.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for actual


How to pronounce actual (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of actual

: real and not merely possible or imagined : existing in fact
: known to be correct or precise : not false or apparent
used for emphasis


ac·​tu·​al | \ ˈak-chə-wəl How to pronounce actual (audio) \

Kids Definition of actual

: really existing or happening : not false The movie is based on actual events.



Legal Definition of actual

: existing in fact or reality — compare constructive

Other Words from actual

actually adverb

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Comments on actual

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