late 14c., "power, efficacy," from Medieval Latin actualitatem (nominative actualitas), from Late Latin actualis "pertaining to action," from Latin actus "a doing" (from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move"). A Latin loan-translation of Greek energeia "activity, action, operation" (see energy). Meaning "state of being real" is from 1670s (actualities "existing conditions" is from 1660s).
Mod. use of actuality in the sense of realism, contact with the contemporary, is due to Fr. actualité, from actuel, which does not mean actual, real, but now existing, up to date. [Weekley]