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The “Ipso Facto” Factor: What Does It Mean and How Do I Use It?

From time to time, you may encounter the phrase “Ipso Facto” and wonder what it means. As the word is Latin, it’s reasonable to question when you see it pop up in English. 

It does make an appearance frequently since the usual procedure for foreign word usage is to italicize it, but “ipso facto” has reached tenure with the language and no longer requires this regulation. 

Here is your chance to fully understand this expression and impress your friends and colleagues with a little Latin-English. 

It’s a great icebreaker for parties – honest! 

Uh, What Did You Just Say?

While you can certainly use the expression to impress your friends, “ipso facto” is most appropriate for formal discussions and within academic writing. 

The word facto, requiring little stretching of the imagination, relates to facts or factual information, while ipso is a reflexive pronoun referring back to the topic, which is supposedly a fact. A close translation would be “by this particular fact.”

In other words (more specifically, English words), this expression is most closely to words and phrases like “therefore,” “thus,” “hence” or “consequently.” 

However, although it can be a direct replacement for those phrases, it’s a unique phrase (which is why people use it instead of English) with a slightly different meaning. 

In short, you use it when you state a fact and want to show that a second fact is directly related to the first one, that it is, ipso facto, resulting from the first (see what I did there?). 

For example: 

  • The king is in charge of the kingdom and, ipso facto, controls the army. 

The usage here indicates that by nature of the first fact, that he is in charge, he also has jurisdiction over the military. The second fact is a direct result of the first!

  • George was recorded on camera at the hotel during the crime. Ipso facto, he had a solid alibi. 

As a result of his appearance on camera, in point of fact, he couldn’t have been at the crime scene. 

  • Kaira had the best overall performance; ipso facto, the boss chose her to manage the project. 

Because Kaira was the best choice, this fact was the primary factor why her company chose her for leadership.

Final Thoughts

If you pull off the proper usage of “ipso facto,” it can lend you a little academic credibility and help you achieve an intellectual air; however, doing so incorrectly can, ipso facto, make you a target for other intellectuals who will try to take you down a peg or two. 

Make sure you feel comfortable with the expression before using it in critical situations. Practice a little bit and maybe get some tentative feedback online from people willing to help a fledgling academic grow. 

Once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll be ipso facto-ing in no time, leaving awe and envy in your wake at your masterful use of foreign-English words. 

Once you feel sufficiently comfortable with this word, you can continue your education by investigating other Latin phrases that make frequent appearances in English, such as ad hoc, bona fide, carpe diem, exempli gratia, et cetera, id est, and more! 

Don’t be intimidated – you’ve seen those last few more times than you may realize as abbreviations! 

Now, take your newfound power and go forth!


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By James Smith

Described as an "English Guru," James Smith holds a Master's degree in English from Arkansas Tech University, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with a minor in ESL. James is a sought after writer and editor with university teaching experience.

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