English edit

Etymology edit

From Middle English actualy, actuelly, equivalent to actual +‎ -ly.

Pronunciation edit

Adverb edit

actually (not comparable)

  1. (modal) In act or in fact; really; in truth; positively.
    His promises did not correspond with what he actually did.
  2. (obsolete) Actively.
    • 1655, Thomas Fuller, The Church-history of Britain; [], London: [] Iohn Williams [], →OCLC:
      Neither actually [] nor passively.
  3. (obsolete) Currently; at the time.
    • 1847 January – 1848 July, William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair [], London: Bradbury and Evans [], published 1848, →OCLC:
      At the time whereof we are writing, though the Great George was on the throne and ladies wore gigots and large combs like tortoise-shell shovels in their hair, instead of the simple sleeves and lovely wreaths which are actually in fashion, the manners of the very polite world were not, I take it, essentially different from those of the present day: and their amusements pretty similar.

Usage notes edit

  • In other European languages, cognates of actually mean "now" or "currently"; (e.g., Portuguese "atualmente", Spanish "actualmente", French "actuellement", German "aktuell", Italian "attualmente", Czech "aktuálně"), making it a false friend. This leads many non-native speakers of English to use "actually" when they mean "now" or "currently".
  • Some commentators have:
    1. remarked upon the irony that this qualifier of veracity often introduces an utter lie;[1] and,
    2. noted that in many cases, actually functions as little more than a vacuous emphatic utterance.[2]
  • In practice, actually and its synonyms are often used to insinuate that the following is either unusual or contrary to a norm or preceding assumption, or to merely preface an overconfident opinion contrasting a previous statement or norm (as per 'vacuous emphasis' note above).
This is actually a really beautiful song. (contrasting opinion)
Actually, I'm not from France – I'm from Switzerland. (contrary from assumption)
At the check-out, the cashier actually greeted me for once. (contrary from norm)

Alternative forms edit

Synonyms edit

Derived terms edit

Translations edit

References edit

  1. ^ Christopher Howse, Richard Preston (2007) She Literally Exploded: The Daily Telegraph Infuriating Phrasebook, London: Constable and Robinson, →ISBN, page 3.
  2. ^ ibidem, page 4

Middle English edit

Adverb edit


  1. Alternative form of actualy

Scots edit

Adverb edit


  1. actually

References edit