Oxford English Dictionary

fact, n.  

    1. A thing done or performed.    a. in neutral sense: An action, deed, course of conduct. Occas. = effect. Also, action in general; deeds, as opposed to words. Obs.
1545 JOYE Exp. Dan. xi.
Zvijb, Let emprours and kinges folow this godly kynges fact. 1592 WEST 1st Pt. Symbol. §2E, Right..is the chiefest cause of obligations, the fact of man the remote cause. 1605 P. WOODHOUSE Flea (1877) 13 The minde doth make the fact, or good or ill. a1626 BACON Sylva x. 243 As they are not to mistake the Causes of these Operations; So much lesse are they to mistake the Fact, or effect. 1643 PRYNNE Sov. Power Parl. App. 193 The fact of him who acts the Gardian, is imputed to the Co-gardians. 1708 SWIFT Sent. Ch. Eng. Man, A history of facts done a thousand years ago. 1745 P. THOMAS Jrnl. Voy. 206 At length he committed a Fact that completed the Destruction of himself and all his Family. 1815 JANE AUSTEN Emma II. xii, Gracious in fact if not in word.

    b. A noble or brave deed, an exploit; a feat (of valour or skill). Obs.
1543 GRAFTON Contn.
Harding 603 For the whiche noble facte, the kynge created hym afterwarde duke of Norfolke. 1586 MARLOWE 1st Pt. Tamburl. III. ii, His facts of war and blood. 1605 STOW Ann. 481 Henry Hotespurre..taketh prayes, exercising laudable factes. 1667 MILTON P.L. II. 124 He who most excels in fact of Arms. 1730 A. GORDON Maffei's Amphith. 321 Whether this wonderful Fact was performed in the Theatre or Amphitheatre, Xiphiline.leaves us in doubt.

    c. An evil deed, a crime. In the 16th and 17thc. the commonest sense; now Obs. exc. in to confess the fact and after, before the fact, in which the sense approaches that of 2.
1539 Act 31 Hen. VIII, c. 8 Euery such..person..shall be adiudged a traytour, and his facte high treason. 1551 T. WILSON Logike (1580) 47 To marke thynges that goe before the facte, as whether he hated the man or no. 1577 HARRISON England II. xi. (1877) I. 223 He is..hanged.neere the place where the fact was committed. 1603 Philotus lxxxiii, For to commit sa foull ane fack. a1626 BACON Max. & Uses Com. Law viii. (1635) 34 Any accessary before the fact is subject to all the contingencies pregnant of the fact. 1689 Col. Rec. Pennsylv. I. 252 In a Provinciall Court held in ye County of Kent, where ye ffact was Committed. a1715 BURNET Own Time (1766) I. 21 All who were concerned in that vile fact were pardoned. 1769 BLACKSTONE Comm. IV. 39 Accessories after the fact being still allowed the benefit of clergy in all cases. 1772 Ann. Reg. 95 He was carried before Justice Russell, where he confessed the fact. 1869 FREEMAN Norm. Conq. (1876) III. xii. 92 An absolution after the fact might be one.

    d. Actual guilt (as opposed to suspicion). Obs.
1632 MASSINGER Emperor of East V. ii, Great Julius would not Rest satisfied that his wife was free from fact, But, only for suspicion of a crime, Sued a divorce.

    e. An action cognizable, or having an effect in law. Obs.
a1626 BACON Max. & Uses Com. Law xxi. (1635) 89 If tenant intaile discontinue, or suffer a descent, or doe any other fact whatsoever.

    2. The making, doing, or performing. in the (very) fact = in the (very) act. Obs.
1548 HALL Chron. 157b, These three articles he denied either for fact or thought. 1593 SHAKES. 2 Hen. VI, II. i. 173 Naughtie persons.Dealing with Witches and with Coniurers, Whom we haue apprehended in the Fact. 1616 B. JONSON Devil an Ass III. i. Wks. (Rtldg.) 360/1 A project, for the fact, and venting Of a new kind of fucus. 1626 BACON Sylva §795 Those effects which are wrought.by things in fact, are produced likewise in some degree by the imagination. 1650-3 Dissert. de Pace in Phenix (1708) II. 382 Causes.not of our fact and our avoiding. 1712 ADDISON Spect. No. 311 1, I have myself caught a young Jackanapes.in the very Fact. 1768 GOLDSM. Good-n. Man I. i, I caught him in the fact. 1807-8 W. IRVING Salmag. (1824) 20 She was detected..in the very fact of laughing.at the description.

    3.
Math.
= FACTUM 3. Obs.
1673 KERSEY Algebra I. iv. (1725) 15 A third Quantity which is called the Product, the Fact, or the Rectangle. 1721-1800 in BAILEY .

    4. a. Something that has really occurred or is actually the case; something certainly known to be of this character; hence, a particular truth known by actual observation or authentic testimony, as opposed to what is merely inferred, or to a conjecture or fiction; a datum of experience, as distinguished from the conclusions that may be based upon it.
  [In class. Lat. factum had occasionally the extended sense of ‘event, occurrence’; hence in scholastic Lat. was developed the sense above explained, which belongs to all the Romanic equivalents: Fr. fait, It. fatto, Sp. hecho.]
1632 J. HAYWARD tr. Biondi's Eromena 21 They resolved that the Admirall should goe disguised..to assure himselfe of the fact. 1691 T. H[ALE ] Acc. New Invent. 52 The said Commissioners are to report to this Board the Truth of the Fact. 1745 in Col. Rec. Pennsylv. V. 13 These Facts plainly shew that the French [etc.]. 1749 SMOLLETT Gil Blas X. i, Facts are stubborn things. 1774 GOLDSM. Nat. Hist. (1776) VI. 154 The reader, instead of observations or facts, is presented with a long list of names. 1782 PAINE Let. Abbé Raynal (1791) 26 Facts are more powerful than arguments. 1809-10 COLERIDGE Friend (1865) 62 It is an undoubted fact of human nature, that the sense of impossibility quenches all will. 1836 THIRLWALL Greece II. xv. 283 One fact destroys this fiction. 1875 JOWETT Plato (ed. 2) III. 611 The very great advantage of being a fact and not a fiction.

    b. in apposition with a following clause, or with const. of. Now often used where the earlier lang. would have employed a clause or gerundial phrase as subject or as the regimen of a preposition; cf. mod. use of ‘the circumstance that’. In apposition to a following noun clause: the fact that.. = the circumstance that.
1722 DE FOE Plague (1756) 72 Persons alive..who can justify the fact of this. 1803 G. MOORE Diary 15 Jan. in R. J. Mackintosh Mem. Sir J. Mackintosh (1835) I. iv. 175, I would not agree to the fact that ennui prevailed more in England than in France. 1834 Edin. Rev. Oct. 73 The only difference between Crabbe and himself is the fact, that the one was raised from the ranks, while the other is still remaining in them with at least equal independence. 1846 MILL Logic I. iii. §11 The fact of resemblance between relations is sometimes called analogy. 1851 CARPENTER Man. Phys. (ed. 2) 244 The physiological fact of the peculiar connection between the mind and the brain. 1851 QUEEN VICTORIA Let. 13 Oct. in Queen Victoria's Early Lett. (1963) 183 The Queen of Spain ought to be made aware of the fact that among the reigning Sovereigns, the Emperors of Austria and Brazil..etc., etc., have not got the Garter. 1957 D. J. ENRIGHT Apothecary's Shop 209 The fact—not a new one—that Eliot doesn't pull his punches.

    c. Occas. applied concr. to a person, an institution, etc. (A strained use.)
1858 HAWTHORNE Fr. & It. Jrnls. (1872) I. 14 The first Napoleon.one of the external facts of the past. 1877 OWEN in Wellesley's Desp. p. xxi, The British Empire in India was already a great fact.

    d. the fact is: const. with following noun clause introduced by that or with that understood.
1836 R. OWEN Bk. New Moral World xii. 79 The simple fact is that the institutions of society have been formed..to oppose one part of human nature to another. 1868 TROLLOPE He Knew (1869) II. li. 15 You can remain a few minutes longer. The fact is, I've got something I want to say to you. 1875 JOWETT Plato (ed. 2) I. 23 Whereas the fact is that I enquire with you into the truth. 1959 N.Z. Listener 12 June 4/3 The fact is that Lord Bledisloe.did not realise that everything he said was not entirely worth two or three columns in a busy metropolitan daily.

    e. facts and figures: an alliterative phrase used in the sense ‘precise information’.
1845 DICKENS Chimes iv. 48 Facts and figures! Put 'em down! 1855 Westm. Rev. VIII. 438 The honorable gentleman on one side of the House is liable to have his facts and figures shown up by his honorable friend on the opposite side. 1903 H. JAMES Ambassadors IV. ix. 80 Strether.put him in full possession of facts and figures. 1957 J. BRAINE Room at Top xii. 122 The hard materialists, the men of facts and figures.

    f. fact of life: a (stark) reality of existence; a brute fact; freq. the facts of life, spec. as a colloq. euphemism for ‘knowledge of human sexual functions’.
1854 THOREAU Walden ii. 98, I went to the woods because I wished.to front only the essential facts of life. 1855 RIDER HAGGARD K. Solomon's Mines ii. 21 Elephant hunters are a rough set of men, and don't trouble themselves with much beyond the facts of life and the ways of Kafirs. 1893 'SARAH GRAND' Heavenly Twins I. i. 6 He snubbed Evadne promptly..when she mentioned a fact of life... ‘Only confusion comes of women thinking for themselves on social subjects,’ he said. 1895 HARDY Jude VI. ii. 426, I told him I was going to have another child... I couldn't bear deceiving him as to the facts of life. 1902 W. D. HOWELLS Lit. & Life 305, I have not touched upon these facts of life without the purpose of finding some way out of the coil. 1908 K. GRAHAME Wind in Willows ix. 196 To-day, the unseen was everything, the unknown the only real fact of life. 1908 MRS. H. WARD Diana Mallory III. xx. 435 The first withdrawal of the veil which hides.the more brutal facts of life. 1913 MacLean's Mag. June 123/1 The tone of all the speeches at the meeting [of the Eugenics Education Society] emphasized the need of teaching boys and girls the essential facts of life, so as to equip them for the momentous time when they choose life partners. 1930 W. S. MAUGHAM Breadwinner I. 14, I shall never forget when I was leaving my prep school, and Dorothy told Alfred he must tell me what she called ‘the facts of life’. 1932 WODEHOUSE Hot Water xiii. 225 Didn't your mother ever teach you the facts of life, Mrs. G.? Because one of them is never to be too friendly to people you meet on boats. 1953 L. P. HARTLEY Go-Between x. 124 The facts of life were a mystery to me. 1957 G. FABER Jowett v. 84 It must certainly have been at St. Paul's that he became disgustedly aware of the ‘facts of life’. 1959 News Chron. 22 Oct. 5/4 Telling a child of the facts of life and marriage was.one of the tasks that the family.. had abdicated to the schools. 1967 Boston Sunday Globe 23 Apr. 20/3 The conservationists' warning that we will bury ourselves in our own trash will become a fact of life. 1969 AUDEN City without Walls 71 Mother, tongue-tied with shyness, Struggling to tell him The Facts of Life he dared not Tell her he knew already.

    5. Often loosely used for: Something that is alleged to be, or conceivably might be, a ‘fact’.
a1729 S. CLARKE Serm. lxix. Wks. 1738 I. 428 It would have been absurd to alleage in preaching to vnbelievers, a Fact which itself presupposed the Truth of Christ's mission. 1793-7 Spirit Pub. Jrnls. (1797) I. 356 If another soldier should call you a jail-bird, and the truth of the fact be notorious. 1824 Westminster Rev. II. 209 This is, as usual, a false fact, supported by a supposed motive. 1831 Blackw. Mag. June 900/1 The poison of false notions, and, if we may use an expression which, we believe, is in Junius, false facts. 1832 BP. THIRLWALL Remains (1878) III. 185 But I do not mean to deny the fact. 187. Ibid. 489, I am not concerned to deny the fact. Mod. The writer's facts are far from trustworthy.

    6. a. (Without a and pl.) That which is of the nature of a fact; what has actually happened or is the case; truth attested by direct observation or authentic testimony; reality. matter of fact: a subject of discussion belonging to the domain of fact, as distinguished from matter of inference, of opinion, of law, etc. (See also MATTER.)
1581 E. CAMPION in Confer. II. (1584) Mb, He speaketh of a matter of fact. 1641 EVELYN Mem. (1857) I. 31 A.description of the matter-of-fact. 1736 BUTLER Anal. I. iii. Wks. 1874 I. 50 An instance.collected from experience and present matter of fact. 1745-9 Rep. Cond. Sir J. Cope 115 ‘It is Fact’ that something uncommon was expected. 1794 PALEY Evid. (1825) II. 271 The evangelists wrote from fact, not from imagination. 1832 LEWIS Use & Ab. Pol. Terms iii. 35 To deny the power of the legislature to dispose of it [property] at pleasure, is to confound expediency and justice with fact. 1836 J. GILBERT Chr. Atonem. iv. (1852) 120 This case of deliverance.from the pangs of guilt.is fact. 1875 JOWETT Plato (ed. 2) I. 241 Imagination is often at war with reason and fact. 1878 HUXLEY Physiogr. 68 As a matter of fact we rarely, if ever, experience either.

    b. in fact: in reality (cf. sense 1 and indeed). Now often used parenthetically in an epexegetical statement, or when a more comprehensive assertion is substituted for that which has just been made. in point of fact: with regard to matters of fact; also (and now usually) = in fact.
1707 ADDISON Pres. State War 36 If this were true in Fact, I don't see any tolerable colour for such a conclusion. 1711 SWIFT Jrnl. to Stella 10 Nov., Three or four great people are to see there are no mistakes in point of fact. 1732 BERKELEY Alciphr. II. §24 In whatever light you may consider it, this is in fact a solid benefit. 1774 GOLDSM. Nat. Hist. (1776) I. 38 In fact, a thousand questions might be asked..which he would not find it easy to answer. 1818 JAMES MILL Brit. India II. V. ix. 712 In point of fact, the influence exerted..has never been great. 1871 SMILES Charac. ii. (1876) 49 Gray was, in fact, a feminine man. 1888 A. W. STREANE Jeremiah 102 In point of fact Jeremiah was absent from Jerusalem. Mod. He is very independentextravagantly so, in fact.

    c. the fact (of the matter): the truth with regard to the subject under discussion.
1852 C. M. YONGE Two Guardians vi. 101 This is the fact of the matter, as Mrs. Cornthwayte would say.

    d. Other phrases of assertion or rejoinder: (and) that's a fact (orig. U.S.): an emphatic addition to a statement stressing its truth; also this is a fact, that's the fact; is that a fact?: is that so? (used esp. as a rejoinder (expecting no answer) to a statement).
1779 F. BURNEY Diary & Lett. Jan. (1842) I. 163, I know of nobody else that calls me so. This is a fact, Susy. 1834 Boston (Mass.) Post 5 Aug. 7/2 To this statement of facts he replied ‘I was groggy, I know; but what I did, I don't know, that's a fact.’ 1844 DICKENS Mart. Chuz. xxi. 259 ‘It may not be so easy to do it.’ ‘And that's a fact,’ said a voice.close in his ear. 1851 MAYHEW London Lab. I. 417/1 Of the maimed beggars, some are really deserving objects, as without begging they must starve to death; that's a fact, sir. 1860 Cornhill Mag. II. 254 There is old Dr. Squaretoso (he certainly was very rude to me, and that's the fact). 1899 E. W. HORNUNG Amat. Cracksman 202 ‘My name is Raffles, and we met at Milchester last year.’ ‘Is that a fact?’ cried the Scotchman. 1909 ‘I. HAY Man's Man viii. 135 ‘We're thinking of staying here.’.. ‘Is that a fact?.. Weel, I'll bide too.’ 1914 WODEHOUSE Man Upstairs 133 A man I met to-day told me you were engaged. Is that a fact? 1923 R. MACAULAY Told by Idiot II. xxi. 140 Bicycle bolts are a back number, and that's a fact. 1933 M. LOWRY Ultramarine III. 162 Can't bloody move and that's a fact. 1960 D. LESSING In Pursuit of English VI. 215 There is a lot of money to be made out of the libel law. That's a fact. 1962 N. MARSH Hand in Glove iv. 110 ‘It doesn't explain,’ Alleyn said, ‘why the wick in the lantern's been turned hard off, does it?’ ‘Is that a fact!Raikes remarked, primly.

    e. Sometimes with exclamation mark: used as an emphatic assertion of the truth of a statement.
1819 BYRON Juan 115, Note 4, page 25 They only add them all in an appendix. Fact. There is, or was, such an edition, with all the obnoxious epigrams of Martial placed by themselves at the end. 1848 J. R. LOWELL Biglow P. 1st Ser. 4 Fact! it takes a sight o' cotton To stuff out a soger's chest. 1899 R. WHITEING No. 5 John St. xxi. 213 ‘Garn!’ Fack. It was like this.’ 1907 WODEHOUSE White Feather viii. 88 We are, really. Fact. 1964 J. DRUMMOND Welcome, Proud Lady xvii. 81 ‘You astonish me.’ ‘Fact.’

    7. Law. In sing. and pl. The circumstances and incidents of a case, looked at apart from their legal bearing. attorney in fact: see ATTORNEY.
a1718 PENN Tracts Wks. 1726 I. 501 The Jury is judge of Law and Fact. 1892 J. M. LELY Wharton's Law Lex. 616/1 When a jury is sworn it decides all the issues of fact.

    8. attrib. and Comb., as fact-fetishism, -fetishist ns.; fact-bound, -crammed adjs.; fact-collecting, -cramming vbl. ns.; fact-gathering vbl. n. and ppl. adj.; fact-finding ppl. a., that finds out facts; esp. descriptive of a committee, commission, etc., set up to discover and establish the facts of any matter; also as vbl. n., the work involved in such a process; hence (as a back-formation) fact-find v. intr.; also fact-finder; fact-proof a., impervious to facts; fact-sheet, a paper on which facts relevant to a particular issue are set out briefly and clearly.
1959 Encounter Sept. 14/2 Their determination to stay precise and *fact-bound at all costs.


1937 V. WOOLF Years 380 I'm good, she thought, at *fact-collecting.


1894 Westm. Gaz. 4 Apr. 3/1 It was a clever *fact-crammed speech. 1907 Daily Chron. 16 Jan. 3/2 A fact-crammed encyclopædia. 1933 DYLAN THOMAS Let. Sept. (1966) 25 You've got more in your little finger than they have in the whole of their fact-crammed brains.


1876 C. M. YONGE Womankind vi. 49 The contact with a really powerful thinking mind.ought not to be sacrificed to mere *fact-cramming.


1964 K. WINETROUT in I. L. Horowitz New Sociology 149 We wind up with *fact-fetishism, with a ‘social science of the narrow focus, the trivial detail, the abstracted almighty unimportant fact’.


1960 Spectator 7 Oct. 527 The book meets the demands of the most hardbitten *fact-fetishist. 1969 J. MANDER Static Soc. ix. 319 Fact-fetishists as they are, both authors belong to the..spirit of the Enlightenment.


1953 N.Y. Times 8 Feb. E1/4 Ostensibly their mission was to *fact-find on the problem of speeding the rearmament of Europe.


1927 P. H. DE KRUIF Microbe Hunters ii. 67 The spirit of the searcher, the *fact finder, flashed out of his eye.


1909 G. B. SHAW John Bull's Other Island p. x, The actual distinction between the idolatrous Englishman and the *fact-finding Irishman. 1926 B. WEBB My Apprenticeship vi. 287 My super-enthusiasm for fact-finding. 1927 N.Y. Times 18 July 41/1 A fact-finding committee under the leadership of William P. MacCracken Jr., Assistant Secretary for Aeronautics. 1958 Punch 16 July 72/2 Sociologically, of course, we are up against the fact-finders. Fact-finding is to estimating as photography is to painting in oils. 1959 Times 24 Sept. 15/1 Account of a fact-finding tour of eighteen months spent in New China. 1969 New Yorker 31 May 34/2 A well-known congressman.had gone there.on a fact-finding trip.


1943 Amer. Antiquity IX. 208 American archaeology is still in its intense historical, *fact-gathering stage. 1958 T. LANDAU Encycl. Librarianship 118/1 His fact-gathering and his several publications about libraries. 1961 J. WILSON Reason & Morals iii. 185 A subject [sc. philosophy] which is really a kind of conceptual psychoanalysis, and not a fact-gathering subject.


1909 G. B. SHAW John Bull's Other Island p. ix, He is never quite the hysterical, nonsense-crammed, *fact-proof, truth-terrified, unballasted sport of all the bogy panics..that now calls itself ‘God's Englishman’.


1959 Times Lit. Suppl. 2 Jan. 11/4 This is partly what the Americans call a *fact-sheet on the military strengths of America and Russia. 1969 Guardian 23 Oct. 3/2 The distribution in Congress last night of a ‘fact sheet’ outlining the.steps taken by the Nixon Administration.