De Facto

Edward may be the official King of the lodge, but Steven is the de facto leader.

De facto is a Latin phrase borrowed into English. What does it mean that Steven is the de facto leader? What if I told you that Edward was the leader de jure?

Meaning of Idiom ‘De Facto’

De facto is a Latin phrase meaning in fact or practice or in actual use or actual existence. In English, we use it to refer to things that exist in fact but that are not officially or legally recognized or accepted.

Think of de facto as meaning in fact, in reality, in effect, or actually.

If Steven is the de facto leader of the lodge, he is the actual leader. The person who leads in reality.

De facto can be considered the opposite of de jure, which means that recognized by law or something which is official.

So, Edward is the leader de jure, meaning he is the officially recognized leader. But, since the day to day business of the lodge is actually overseen by Steven, he is the de facto leader, meaning that he is the person whom everyone comes to for leadership, instead of Edward.

Both these terms are legal terms you might hear in court. However, although we don’t use the term ‘de jure’ much in general English, we do sometimes use ‘de facto,’ especially in written works.

In Australian English, a de facto might be someone who lives with another person as a wife or husband although they are not officially married. In America, we might call this a common-law wife or husband.

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Examples Of Use

“Why should you learn to speak English? Because English is the de facto language of global business.”

“The two countries have long been in a de facto state of war.”

“The general took over and with his cronies, acts as the de facto government of the state.”

“Regardless of school integration in the United States, de facto segregation still exists in many districts.”


Coming from Latin, this term has been used in English since at least the 17th century.

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