ac·​tu·​al ˈak-ch(ə-w)əl How to pronounce actual (audio)
: existing in fact or reality
actual events
actual and imagined conditions
: not false or apparent
actual costs
used for emphasis
This is the actual room in which my grandfather was born.
: existing or occurring at the time
caught in the actual commission of a crime
obsolete : active

Example Sentences

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.
Recent Examples on the Web Unlike high-stakes summative assessments, such as midterm or final exams, formative assessments provide feedback during the actual instructional process. Bethlam Forsa, Forbes, 24 Jan. 2023 Yet the actual role that Ticketmaster plays in live music is widely misunderstood. Los Angeles Times, 23 Jan. 2023 Much of the criticism levied against SLS, however, has focused on the actual process of getting the rocket built. Jackie Wattles, CNN, 20 Jan. 2023 The actual process is messier and more laborious, and, at the moment, it is largely used to construct walls, while conventional methods are used for foundations, floors, roofs, and finishes. Rachel Monroe, The New Yorker, 16 Jan. 2023 Graza’s refreshing apology was clearly the work of actual human beings who have never run their business like [Company Name]. Ben Cohen, WSJ, 12 Jan. 2023 Where the utility of Czechoslovakia as a precedent ends, however, is with the actual process of splitting up. Kieran Williams, The Conversation, 10 Jan. 2023 Among the concessions given to his former detractors by McCarthy, none may end up being as consequential to the actual legislative process as his decision to name three members of the Republican Freedom Caucus to the powerful House Rules Committee. Rafi Schwartz, The Week, 9 Jan. 2023 The students plan to move forward with the actual app development process. Jasmine Browley, Essence, 6 Jan. 2023 See More

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

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

Dictionary Entries Near actual

Cite this Entry

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

Kids Definition


ac·​tu·​al ˈak-ch(ə-w)əl How to pronounce actual (audio)
: existing in fact and not merely as a possibility

Legal Definition


: existing in fact or reality compare constructive
actually adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on actual

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

Challenging Words You Should Know

  • hedgehog reading a book
  • Often used to describe “the march of time,” what does inexorable mean?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Solve today's spelling word game by finding as many words as you can with using just 7 letters. Longer words score more points.

Can you make 12 words with 7 letters?