late 15c., "actively," from actual (q.v.). Meaning "in fact, as opposed to possibility" is from 1580s; that of "at this time, at present" is from 1660s. As an intensive added to a statement and suggesting "as a matter of fact, really, in truth" it is attested from 1762.
"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]