Fait accompli


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Fait accompli'?

An accomplished fact; an action which is completed before those affected by it are in a position to query or reverse it.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Fait accompli'?

The literal translation into English of this French phrase is a fact realized or accomplished – what might these days be called a done deal. Strangely, it entered the English language via a travelogue of Spain rather than France. Richard Ford’s A hand-book for travellers in Spain, 1845, was and still is, regarded as a classic of travel writing. In it Ford included the phrase “This is now a fait accompli.”, in regard of some previously decided fact.

In 1858, Sir William Stirling Maxwell wrote that “So great a literary achievement had never before been performed under so unpretending an appellation… it took its place among the best books of travel, humour, and history, social, literary, political, and artistic, in the English language”.

See also – other French phrases in English.

Trend of fait accompli in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.