from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Law A written order issued by a court, commanding the party to whom it is addressed to perform or cease performing a specified act.
  • n. Writings: holy writ.
  • v. A past tense and a past participle of write.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A written order, issued by a court, ordering someone to do (or stop doing) something.
  • n. authority, power to enforce compliance
  • n. that which is written; writing
  • v. this sense?) (dated) Past participle of write (normally, “written”) and used in the phrase writ large. This form survives in the Scouse dialect (in-fact, it is dominant), but is practically obsolete in all others.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • 3d pers. sing. pres. of write, for writeth.
  • imp. & p. p. of write.
  • n. That which is written; writing; scripture; -- applied especially to the Scriptures, or the books of the Old and New testaments.
  • n. An instrument in writing, under seal, in an epistolary form, issued from the proper authority, commanding the performance or nonperformance of some act by the person to whom it is directed.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. That which is written; a writing: used especially of the Bible, with holy or sacred, often capitalized as a title.
  • n. In law, a precept under seal, in the name of the people, or the sovereign, or other competent legal authority, commanding the officer or other person to whom it is addressed or issued to do or refrain from doing some specified act.
  • n. A formal instrument or writing of any kind.
  • n. In the United States, a mandatory precept issuing out of the clerk's office in any of the courts of law, by the authority and in the name of the State or commonwealth, under the seal of the court from which it issues, bearing teste of the chief justice of the court, if he is not a party, and signed by the clerk of the court. (Heard.) Its object is to compel the appearance of the defendant, or at least to give him due notice that he is sued. In most of the States it has been superseded by a summons, issued by the plaintiff's attorney, giving such notice and requiring the defendant to plead. See also original writ, under original.
  • n. The writ is legally capable of enforcement: as, the writ of subpœna runs throughout the state.
  • n. The writ is practically capable of enforcement: as, “When lawlessness has yielded to order; when the Queen's writ runs; when the edicts of the civil courts are obeyed; … and when sedition is trampled under foot—then, and then only, is there some chance for the development of remedial measures.” (Edinburgh Rev., CLXV. 587.)
  • n. An obsolete form of the third person singular present indicative (for writeth), and an obsolete or archaic form of the past participle, of write.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. (law) a legal document issued by a court or judicial officer


Middle English, from Old English.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Old English (Wiktionary)


  • Guy: In an attempt to purge Latin from the language of the law, California law has for many years used the term writ of mandate in place of writ of mandamus, and writ of review in place of writ of certiorari.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » PC

  • In an attempt to purge Latin from the language of the law, California law has for many years used the term writ of mandate in place of writ of mandamus, and writ of review in place of writ of certiorari.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » PC

  • You decorate a bus with your name writ large, pump up the patriotic platitudes, head out on an "all-American road trip" and, by golly, you just can't understand what all the fuss is about.

    NPR Topics: News

  • Fight Club: 10th Anniversary Edition is a one-disc, fully loaded offering with the title writ in shocking pink.

    JAM! Showbiz

  • When I say Darwinian evolution I mean the term writ large accounting for the entire history of life on earth.

    Planet Atheism

  • Their access to the writ is a necessity to determine the lawfulness of their status, even if, in the end, they do not obtain the relief they seek.

    Archive 2008-06-29

  • They ` re going to file what they call a writ of habeas corpus, which basically means the body is being held illegally and they ` re going to try to undo what the judge did today.

    CNN Transcript Jun 8, 2007

  • While the Founders had quite a bit to offer in the way of revolutionary thought, they were anything but perfect, and using the US Constitution as holy writ is ultimately a dead end, even if better by comparison to 99% of what goes on in politics today.

    Coyote Blog » Blog Archive » My Interview with Glenn Beck

  • All of this would be funnier if not for the fact that this kind of hooliganism and casual trampling of First Amendment rights from people who claim to embrace the Constitution as holy writ is symptomatic of a deeper problem.

    Michael Winship: The Pulpit of Bullies

  • And now when I finally have my name writ large, so does everyone else.

    writing, books and reading


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • To be honest, I wouldn't have known about it at all if we weren't forced to learn it in primary school.

    July 18, 2009

  • Ah yes, holy writ. I'd forgotten that one.

    Your ablaut relation is showing. ;)

    July 17, 2009

  • I was about to say that wasn't the past participle 'writ', but then I thought I'd better check the etymology. No, it's not the past participle, it's an original noun in ablaut relation with the verb. The noun is also familiar in 'Holy Writ'.

    In fact, more likely in 'holy writ', the figurative extension.

    July 17, 2009

  • Or because of phrases like "issued a writ," which is fairly common.

    July 17, 2009

  • The past participle 'writ' remains in modern awareness because of Milton's line 'New presbyter is but old priest writ large.'

    July 17, 2009

  • etymoline says it's from the write.

    July 17, 2009

  • Isn't it also that really old word that means 'write'...sort of?

    July 17, 2009

  • English law term, replaced by 'claim form' in 1999 (in England and Wales).

    August 18, 2008