Definition of "De facto"

Bion Grady real estate agent
Bion Grady, Real Estate Agent Atlanta Communities Real Estate

Wondering what “de facto” means?

Well, because it’s a Latin word, let’s give a formal definition. De facto is Latin for indeed, in fact, in reality, actually. An act or fact that occurs as a matter of practice and reality as distinguished from “de jure”, meaning a lawfully and rightfully occurring act. A de facto action or occurrence is accepted as a matter of fact but is illegal or illegitimate.

Ok, now let’s give a more down to earth, less snobby de facto definition, shall we?

De facto is everything that is in practice, not necessarily in theory. For example: think of a house owned by a Father, but occupied by his Daughter. The owner de facto is the Father, although the daughter is the one who will answer the door when someone knocks and asks to talk to the owner of the house. Concomitantly, the resident de facto is the daughter, not the father – who owns the place, but lives elsewhere. Or what about USA’s language? Officially, by the laws that govern us, there is no official language (did you know that?!), however, the de facto language is, of course, English.

This de facto definition is used in the court of law to refer to things that exist in reality even if it’s not made “official” by contracts and laws. Here’s another example: if you hear someone say a public school inside an urban ghetto or a public school in the suburbs is de facto racially segregated (or at least nearly so), that person is probably implying that, while no law segregated white kids from attending the ghetto school because of the color of their skin or no law segregated black kids from attending the rich suburban school, sadly a racial segregation occurs anyways because the chances of a white family living in that ghetto or a black family living in that rich suburb are slim.


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Did this de facto definition make more sense? That’s probably because we put it on a scenario. Check our Real Estate Questions page where we do a lot of that; that specific term you’re not completely getting might get better explained there in the form of a question!

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