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
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)
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.
3. Math. = FACTUM 3. Obs.
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
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)
c. Occas. applied concr. to a person, an institution, etc. (A strained use.)
1858 HAWTHORNE Fr. & It. Jrnls. (1872)
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)
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'
5. Often loosely used for: Something that is alleged to be, or conceivably might be, a ‘fact’.
a1729 S. CLARKE Serm. lxix. Wks. 1738
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)
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.
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.
1779 F. BURNEY Diary & Lett. Jan. (1842)
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.
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.
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.
1909 G. B. SHAW John Bull's Other
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
1959 Times Lit. Suppl. 2 Jan. 11/4 This is partly what the Americans call a *fact-sheet on the
military strengths of