Legal Dictionary

de facto

Legal Definition of de facto


    Latin Origin


  1. As a matter of fact; something which, while not necessarily lawful or legally sanctified, exists in fact. A common law spouse may be referred to a de facto wife or de facto husband: although not legally married, they live and carry-on their lives as if married. A de facto government is one which has seized power by force or in any other unconstitutional method and governs in spite of the existence of a de jure government.


    Latin origin

Definition of de facto


    A Latin expression that means "in fact" or "in practice" or "in reality"


de facto

  1. Actual.
  2. Virtual, being such in effect or essence (rather than literally in fact) though not formally or wholly taken for granted, as opposed to de jure.
  3. (politics, military) Of a political or military leader, exercising power without being legally established.

    Although the United States currently has no official language, it is largely monolingual with English being the de facto national language.

  4. (computing) Of hardware or software, being widely used, but not conforming to a standard.



de facto

  1. in reality


de facto

  1. (Australian) A legally undeclared spouse. Usually spelled defacto.

Further reading

De facto is a Latin expression that means "by [the] fact". In law, it is meant to mean "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but without being officially established". It is commonly used in contrast to de jure (which means "concerning the law") when referring to matters of law, governance, or technique (such as standards) that are found in the common experience as created or developed without or contrary to a regulation. When discussing a legal situation, de jure designates what the law says, while de facto designates action of what happens in practice. It is analogous and similar to the expressions "for all intents and purposes" or "in fact". The term de facto as of governments was created after the Argentine Constitution referred to illegal governments (governing bodies which Argentina did not acknowledge as individual nations) as de facto governments. The term de facto may also be used when there is no relevant law or standard, but a common and well established practice that is considered the accepted norm.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     lex fori
2.     landed property
3.     lex situs
4.     respondent
5.     default judgment
6.     tort law
7.     living will
8.     lex causae
9.     law
10.     salacious