1. Knowledge or information based on real occurrences: an account based on fact; a blur of fact and fancy.
a. Something demonstrated to exist or known to have existed: Genetic engineering is now a fact. That Chaucer was a real person is an undisputed fact.
b. A real occurrence; an event: had to prove the facts of the case.
c. Something believed to be true or real: a document laced with mistaken facts.
3. A thing that has been done, especially a crime: an accessory before the fact.
4. Law A conclusion drawn by a judge or jury from the evidence in a case: a finding of fact.
in (point of) fact
In reality or in truth; actually.
[Latin factum, deed, from neuter past participle of facere, to do; see dhē- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: Since the word fact means "a real occurrence, something demonstrated to exist or known to have existed," the phrases true facts and real facts, as in The true facts of the case may never be known, would seem to be redundant. But fact has a long history of use in the sense of "an allegation of fact" or "something that is believed to be true," as in this remark by union leader Albert Shanker: "This tract was distributed to thousands of American teachers, but the facts and the reasoning are wrong." This usage has led to the notion of "incorrect facts," which causes qualms among critics who insist that facts must be true. The usages, however, are often helpful in making distinctions or adding emphasis.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.