If you describe something as actual, it really exists or is true. You might excitedly tell your friends that you saw an actual bald eagle land on your mailbox.
Use the adjective actual when you want to emphasize that something is certain or confirmed, especially when it's different from what you expected. For example, you might say, "The actual length of my cousin's visit was three weeks, even though she said she'd stay three days." The Old French root is actuel, "now existing," from the Latin word actus, "a doing, driving, or impulse."