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  1. existing in act or fact; real: an actual case of heroism; actual expenses.
  2. existing now; present; current: The ship's actual position is 22 miles due east of Miami.
  3. Obsolete. pertaining to or involving acts or action.
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Origin of actual

1275–1325; < Late Latin āctuālis, equivalent to Latin āctu- (stem of action noun āctus; see act) + -ālis -al1; replacing Middle English actuel < Middle French < Latin
Related formsac·tu·al·ness, nounnon·ac·tu·al, adjectivenon·ac·tu·al·ness, noun


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Synonym study

1. See real1.


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for actual


  1. existing in reality or as a matter of fact
  2. real or genuine
  3. existing at the present time; current
  4. (usually preceded by your) British informal, often facetious (intensifier)that music's by your actual Mozart, isn't it?
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See also actuals

Word Origin

C14: actuel existing, from Late Latin āctuālis relating to acts, practical, from Latin āctus act


The excessive use of actual and actually should be avoided. They are unnecessary in sentences such as in actual fact, he is forty-two, and he did actually go to the play but did not enjoy it
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for actual


early 14c., "pertaining to an action," from Old French actuel "now existing, up to date" (13c.), from Late Latin actualis "active, pertaining to action," adjectival form of Latin actus (see act (n.)). The broader sense of "real, existing" (as opposed to potential, ideal, etc.) is from late 14c.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper