Often when I see "de facto" written somewhere it is in italic. For example:

LaTeX website:

LaTeX is a high-quality typesetting system; it includes features designed for the production of technical and scientific documentation. LaTeX is the >>> de facto <<< standard for the communication and publication of scientific documents. LaTeX is available as free software.

Wikipedia Article

Continued practices of expecting African Americans to ride in the back of buses or to step aside onto the street if not enough room was present for a Caucasian person and "separate but equal" facilities are instances of >>> de facto <<< segregation.


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    Well, I guess it's the de facto way of writing it. Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 14:48

4 Answers 4


It's a phrase imported from Latin (dē factō). Foreign phrases are usually written in italics.

Have a look at these two lists (1, 2). One sees them almost always in italics..

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    I think that a de facto for all languages. For example, the same thing also happen in Portuguese. If you write English or Latin words in Portuguese, you need to do that in italics. Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 18:32

The following style guides all say to write foreign terms in italics, with some exceptions, notably those anglicized everyday words.

The Guardian style guide says:

Use italics for foreign words and phrases (with roman translation in brackets)

National Geographic's Style Manual says:

The following are printed in italic type without quotation marks:

Foreign words that have not become anglicized, on first use only, in text and legends. If the second use is different in number or gender and not readily recognizable, it too may be italicized:
e.g., kibbutz, kibbutzim; maama (mother), bamaam (mothers).

Anglicized words found in Webster's may be italicized for flavor.

Do not italicize personal names, place-names, peoples and tribes, institutions, holy days, festivals, money, and titles of persons.

Wikipedia Manual of Style says:

Wikipedia prefers italics for phrases in other languages and for isolated foreign words that do not yet have everyday use in non-specialised English. Use the native spellings if they use the Latin alphabet (with or without diacritics)—otherwise Anglicise their spelling. For example: "Gustav I of Sweden liked to breakfast on crisp bread (knäckebröd) open sandwiches with toppings such as messmör (butter made from goat's milk), ham (skinka), vegetables (grönsaker) like tomatoes (tomat) or cucumber (gurka)." In accordance with the guide to writing better Wikipedia articles, use foreign words sparingly.

Loanwords or phrases that have common use in English, however—praetor, Gestapo, samurai, esprit de corps, e.g., i.e.—do not require italicization. Likewise musical movement titles, tempo markings, or terms like minuet and trio, are in roman type. If looking for a good rule of thumb, do not italicize words that appear in Merriam-Webster Online. If there is a reason to include native spelling in a non-Latin script, it can be placed in parentheses. Text in non-Latin scripts (such as Greek or Cyrillic) should not be italicized at all—even where this is technically feasible; the difference of script suffices to distinguish it on the page.

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    Nice post, but the quote from Wikipedia would seem to imply that "de facto" shouldn't be italicized, because it's a common phrase just like "esprit de corps". Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 14:25
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    @DanielRoseman Yes, I guess it depends on how common you (or your sub-editor) think "de facto" is. This Ngram suggests it's the most common of Wikipedia's example common loanwords.
    – Hugo
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 14:46
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    There's a fair amount of subjectivity when deciding whether a term has become mainstream/anglicized enough or not. Personally, I feel "de facto" is such a common term that there is really no need to italicize it.
    – Bjorn
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 14:58
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    Foreign words and phrases in italics is also given in The Oxford Manual of Style (2002 edition), with §6.5 dedicated to the topic. However the dictionary (2nd part) notes that "de facto" shouldn't be in italics (presumably regarded as sufficiently assimilated).
    – Richard
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 18:07
  • +1 nice post. Still I keep seeing all these Latin words in italics (mainly in scientific papers).
    – Anonymous
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 20:33

It's because some people feel it's still not a fully anglicized term.


Further to Barrie England's point, foreign phrases are traditionally italicised in written English.

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