early 14c., "pertaining to acts or an action;" late 14c. in the broader sense of "real, existing" (as opposed to potential, ideal, etc.); from Old French actuel "now existing, up to date" (13c.), from Late Latin actualis "active, pertaining to action," adjectival form of Latin actus "a doing" (from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move").
early 15c., "in fact, in reality" (as opposed to "in possibility"), from actual + -ly (2). The meaning "actively, vigorously" is from mid-15c.; that of "at this time, at present" is from 1660s. As an intensive added to a statement and suggesting "as a matter of fact, really, in truth" it is attested from 1762, often used as an expression of mild wonder or surprise.
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to drive, draw out or forth, move."
It forms all or part of: act; action; active; actor; actual; actuary; actuate; agency; agenda; agent; agile; agitation; agony; ambagious; ambassador; ambiguous; anagogical; antagonize; apagoge; assay; Auriga; auto-da-fe; axiom; cache; castigate; coagulate; cogent; cogitation; counteract; demagogue; embassy; epact; essay; exact; exacta; examine; exigency; exiguous; fumigation; glucagon; hypnagogic; interact; intransigent; isagoge; litigate; litigation; mitigate; mystagogue; navigate; objurgate; pedagogue; plutogogue; prodigal; protagonist; purge; react; redact; retroactive; squat; strategy; synagogue; transact; transaction; variegate.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek agein "to lead, guide, drive, carry off," agon "assembly, contest in the games," agōgos "leader," axios "worth, worthy, weighing as much;" Sanskrit ajati "drives," ajirah "moving, active;" Latin actus "a doing; a driving, impulse, a setting in motion; a part in a play;" agere "to set in motion, drive, drive forward," hence "to do, perform," agilis "nimble, quick;" Old Norse aka "to drive;" Middle Irish ag "battle."
1610s, "bring into existence, make or cause to become real," also "exhibit the actual existence of," from French réaliser "make real" (16c.), from real "actual" (see real (adj.)). The sense of "understand clearly, comprehend the reality of" is recorded by 1775. Sense of "obtain, amass, bring or get into actual possession" (money, profit, etc.) is from 1753. Related: Realized; realizing.
"real things, actual facts," 1952, neuter plural of Late Latin realis "actual, real" (see real (adj.)). Earlier (1950, American English), "objects which may be used as teaching aids but were not made for the purpose" [OED].
"conception or opinion formed in advance of experience or actual knowledge," 1620s, from pre- "before" + conception. Related: Preconceptions.
"photography of objects at or larger than actual size without the use of a magnifying lens," 1863, from macro- + photography.