de facto

1 of 2


de fac·​to di-ˈfak-(ˌ)tō How to pronounce de facto (audio)
: in reality : actually
became the leader de facto

de facto

2 of 2


: actual
especially : being such in effect though not formally recognized
a de facto state of war
Whatever it says on the calendar, Florida has de facto summer. E. L. Konigsburg
has become the movement's de facto spokesperson
: exercising power as if legally constituted
a de facto government
the de facto head of state
: resulting from economic or social factors rather than from laws or actions of the state
de facto segregation

Example Sentences

Adjective with the death of his father, he became the de facto head of the family
Recent Examples on the Web
Senior aides view the forthcoming State of the Union Address as a de facto launch of his reelection bid. Nancy Cordes, Ed O'keefe, CBS News, 19 Jan. 2023 But in 2020, Azerbaijani troops launched an offensive to retake Nagorno-Karabakh, conquering swathes of territory and leaving Karabakh Armenians in control of just their de facto capital, Stepanakert, and the surrounding area. Time, 18 Jan. 2023 But the female journalists of Bilan are not just challenging local newsroom culture rife with harassment and de facto glass ceilings. Scott Peterson, The Christian Science Monitor, 17 Jan. 2023 People familiar with the BOJ’s thinking say some officials want to give the December action more time, while others are concerned that a de facto interest-rate increase is the wrong move when the global economy seems poised for a slowdown in 2023. Megumi Fujikawa, WSJ, 17 Jan. 2023 The scandal — and its mafia-like details — has shaken the de facto capital of the European Union, raising questions about corruption and influence peddling and renewing calls for tougher ethics rules. Beatriz Ríos, Washington Post, 17 Jan. 2023 When Yescas died in 1985, his followers recognized Arvizu as his heir and the de facto Danza Azteca leader in the United States. Dua Anjum, Los Angeles Times, 17 Jan. 2023 Ken Fulk used floor-to-ceiling storage to create a de facto mudroom from an empty hallway. Hadley Mendelsohn, House Beautiful, 13 Jan. 2023 Boyd’s request for a release from the group, which serves as the de facto governing body of Columbia, comes after months of rumors about her job security. Ethan Ehrenhaft, Baltimore Sun, 13 Jan. 2023 See More

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

Word History



borrowed from Medieval Latin, literally, "from the fact"


derivative of de facto entry 1

First Known Use


1601, in the meaning defined above


circa 1689, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of de facto was in 1601

Dictionary Entries Near de facto

Cite this Entry

“De facto.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Feb. 2023.

Legal Definition

de facto

1 of 2 adverb
: in reality : actually
these two constraints have been lifted, one de facto and one de jureSusan Lee

de facto

2 of 2 adjective
: actual
especially : being such in effect though not formally recognized see also de facto segregation at segregation
: exercising power as if legally constituted or authorized
a de facto government
a de facto judge
compare de jure

History and Etymology for de facto


Medieval Latin, literally, from the fact

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