de facto

/dɪ ˈfæktoʊ/

/dɪ ˈfæktəʊ/

De facto is Latin for "of fact," meaning "in reality," and it's usually contrasted with "de jure," which means "of law," or "officially."

If you're the de facto mayor of your town, you’re acting as mayor, even though you weren't legally elected. You may be just helping out while the official mayor — the de jure mayor, the person who was officially elected — is out of town or ill. Or it might be more sinister — you seized power from the true mayor and locked him in the basement of town hall, and now you’ve made yourself the de facto mayor.

Definitions of de facto
  1. adjective
    existing in fact whether with lawful authority or not
    de facto segregation is as real as segregation imposed by law”
    “a de facto state of war”
    existent, real
    being or occurring in fact or actuality; having verified existence; not illusory
    see moresee less
    de jure
    by right; according to law
  2. adverb
    in reality or fact
    “the result was, de facto, a one-party system”
Cite this entry
  • MLA
  • APA
  • Chicago

Copy citation
DISCLAIMER: These example sentences appear in various news sources and books to reflect the usage of the word ‘de facto'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of or its editors. Send us feedback
Word Family

Look up de facto for the last time

Close your vocabulary gaps with personalized learning that focuses on teaching the words you need to know.

VocabTrainer -'s Vocabulary Trainer