What Does After the Fact Mean?

After the Fact Meaning

Definition: After someone commits a crime; after someone does something.

Origin of After the Fact

This expression comes from a longer expression that has existed since the 1700s: an accessory after the fact.

In this expression, accessory describes a person who helps a second person after the second person committed a crime. Fact has had the definition of crime since the 1500s.

Over time, the full expression shortened to become after the fact, which meant after a crime. Later on, the definition loosened to mean after something happened.

Examples of After the Fact

define after the factHere is an example in which one man offers good advice too late.

Mario: I had the worst day.

Axel: What happened?

Mario: Well, I was driving home, and my car completely broke down.

Axel: Really?

Mario: Yeah. I had to call a tow truck and everything.

Axel: Did they find out what was wrong with it?

Mario: Yeah. The engine is broken. It’s going to take thousands of dollars to fix!

Axel: What was wrong with the engine.

Mario: Apparently I never changed the oil.

Axel: You’re supposed to change the oil every three months or so.

Mario: Well, I wish you had told me that before. My engine is already broken. Your advice isn’t very helpful after the fact.

synonyms for after the factA mother uses the idiom while talking to her son about problems he was having at school.

Mother: Do you know where I’ve been all afternoon?

Son: No. At work?

Mother: No. I’ve been at your school.

Son: Uh oh. I forgot to tell you that I got into a fight with another student yesterday.

Mother: I know. Your principal and teacher just spent a very long time telling me all about that. I wish you had told me before I got there, rather than waiting to tell me after the fact.

Son: Whoops. Sorry, mom.

Mother: Sorry isn’t good enough! They are suspending you. You are in huge trouble.

More Examples

This excerpt is about Texans who receive medical treatment. Later on, they often find out their insurance can’t cover it.

  • Last week, economists with the Federal Trade Commission reported that Texans had a more than one-in-three chance of learning after the fact that some of their treatment had fallen outside an insurer’s network. –Houston Chronicle

The second excerpt explains that someone leaked the president’s tax returns to the media. After that, many people wondered if the president was the person who leaked it.

  • All told, Trump seemed to make it through the segment in pretty good shape – so good that a cyberspace chorus wondered for hours after the fact: Did Trump leak his own tax return? –Houston Chronicle


The phrase after the fact describes that one occurrence followed another.