Another answer I came across recently mentioned that orders for specific performance ie mandatory injunctions formerly called mandamus were writs. Conversely so were other writs such as certiorari. What, historically, was a “writ”? Are they a legacy of equity, rather than law, back when they were separate disciplines?

2 Answers 2



A writ is simply an order issued under legal authority for someone to do or not do something.

Today the word is usually associated with orders by a court but historically, they applied to administrative and parliamentary orders as well. Technically, a “No parking” sign is a writ.

  • 1
    Yes, the good old writ of non stationandi. Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 13:14
  • No wait, no parking is an imperative, so it would be stationate in plural present active form. Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 17:24
  • In the modern sense, writs are pretty much exclusively court orders directed at government officials, so a no parking sign would not be a writ.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 21:26
  • @IKnowNothing Romanes eunt domus
    – Dale M
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 21:31

Writs are not unique to equity. Writs developed as essentially template actions and associated orders in both law courts and chancery. They eventually crystalized around a fixed set of wrongs and remedies which developed into modern day categories of action and relief. See generally: Frederic William Maitland & Sir Frederick Pollock, The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I, vol. 1, "CHAPTER VII: The Age of Bracton."

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