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List of abbreviations used in medical prescriptions

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Template:MedAbbrev With the advent of prescription privileges for clinical psychologists it is important that we understand the language used.

This is a list of abbreviations used in medical prescriptions (sometimes referred to as sig codes). This listing does not include abbreviations for actual pharmaceuticals (which is a separate article in itself). Capitalization and the use of periods is a matter of style. In the attached list, Latin is not capitalized whereas English acronyms are. The period is used wherever there are letters omitted in the abbreviation. Abbreviations which are officially not to be used as required by the Joint Commission are marked in red. Those abbreviations which are discouraged from use by other organizations are marked in orange.

Official Do-Not-Use list in the United States required by Joint Commission[1]
Not recommended for use by other organizations[2]

List of abbreviations used in medical prescriptions[3]

Abbreviation Latin Meaning Possible confusion
aa ana of each
ad ad up to
a.c. ante cibum before meals
a.d. auris dextra right ear "a" can be mistaken as an "o" which could read "o.d.", meaning right eye
ad lib. ad libitum use as much as one desires; freely
admov. admove apply
agit agita stir/shake
alt. h. alternis horis every other hour
a.m.m. ad manu medicae at doctors hand
a.m. ante meridiem morning, before noon
amp   ampule
amt   amount
aq aqua water
a.l., a.s. auris laeva, auris sinistra left ear "a" can be mistaken as an "o" which could read "o.s." or "o.l", meaning left eye
A.T.C.   around the clock
a.u. auris utraque both ears "a" can be mistaken as an "o" which could read "o.u.", meaning both eyes
bis bis twice
b.d./b.i.d. bis in die twice daily
B.M.   bowel movement
BNF   British National Formulary
bol. bolus as a large single dose (usually intravenously)
B.S.   blood sugar
B.S.A   body surface areas
b.t. bedtime mistaken for "b.i.d", meaning twice daily
BUCC bucca inside cheek
cap., caps. capsula capsule
c, c. cum with (usually written with a bar on top of the "c")
cib. cibus food
cc cum cibo with food, (but also cubic centimetre) mistaken for "U", meaning units; also has an ambiguous meaning; use "mL" or "milliliters"
cf   with food
comp.   compound
cr., crm   cream
CST   Continue same treatment
D5W   dextrose 5% solution (sometimes written as D5W)
D5NS   dextrose 5% in normal saline (0.9%)
D.A.W.   dispense as written (i.e., no generic substitution)
dc, D/C, disc   discontinue or discharge ambiguous meaning
dieb. alt. diebus alternis every other day
dil.   dilute
disp.   dispersible or dispense
div.   divide
d.t.d. dentur tales doses give of such doses
D.W.   distilled water
elix.   elixir
e.m.p. ex modo prescripto as directed
emuls. emulsum emulsion
et et and
eod   every other day
ex aq ex aqua in water
fl., fld.   fluid
ft. fiat make; let it be made
g   gram
gr   grain
gtt(s) gutta(e) drop(s)
H   hypodermic
h, hr hora hour
h.s. hora somni at bedtime
h.s hour sleep or half-strength ambiguous meaning
ID   intradermal
IJ, inj injectio injection mistaken for "IV", meaning intravenously
IM   intramuscular (with respect to injections)
IN intranasal mistaken for "IM", meaning intramuscular, or "IV", meaning intravenously
IP   intraperitoneal
IU international unit mistaken for "IV" or "10", spell out "international unit"
IV   intravenous
IVP   intravenous push
IVPB   intravenous piggyback
L.A.S.   label as such
LCD   coal tar solution
lin linimentum liniment
liq liquor solution
lot.   lotion
mane mane in the morning
M. misce mix
m, min minimum a minimum
mcg microgram may be confused with "mg"
m.d.u. more dicto utendus to be used as directed
mEq   milliequivalent
mg   milligram
MgSO4 magnesium sulfate may be confused with "MSO4", spell out "magnesium sulfate"
mist. mistura mix
mitte mitte send
mL   millilitre
MS morphine sulfate or magnesium sulfate can mean either morphine sulfate or magnesium sulfate, spell out either
MSO4 morphine sulfate may be confused with "MgSO4", spell out "morphine sulfate"
nebul nebula a spray
N.M.T.   not more than
noct. nocte at night
non rep. non repetatur no repeats
NS   normal saline (0.9%)
1/2NS   half normal saline (0.45%)
N.T.E.   not to exceed
o_2   both eyes, sometimes written as o2
od omne in die every day/once daily (preferred to qd in the UK[4])
od oculus dexter right eye "o" can be mistaken as an "a" which could read "a.d.", meaning right ear, confusion with omne in die
om omne mane every morning
on omne nocte every night
o.p.d.   once per day
o.s. oculus sinister left eye "o" can be mistaken as an "a" which could read "a.s.", meaning left ear
o.u. oculus uterque both eyes "o" can be mistaken as an "a" which could read "a.u.", meaning both ears
oz   ounce
per per by or through
p.c. post cibum after meals
pig./pigm. pigmentum paint
p.m. post meridiem evening or afternoon
p.o. per os by mouth or orally
p.r. per rectum by rectum
PRN, prn pro re nata as needed
pulv. pulvis powder
PV per vaginam via the vagina
q quaque every
q.a.d. quaque alternis die every other day
q.a.m. quaque die ante meridiem every day before noon
q.d.s. quater die sumendus four times a day can be mistaken for "qd" (every day)
q.p.m. quaque die post meridiem every day after noon
q.h. quaque hora every hour
q.h.s. quaque hora somni every night at bedtime
q.1 h, q.1° quaque 1 hora every 1 hour; (can replace "1" with other numbers)
q.d., q1d quaque die every day mistaken for "QOD" or "qds", spell out "every day" or "daily"
q.i.d. quattuor in die four times a day
q4PM at 4pm mistaken to mean every four hours
q.o.d.   every other day mistaken for "QD", spell out "every other day"
qqh quater quaque hora every four hours
q.s. quantum sufficiat a sufficient quantity
QWK every week
R   rectal
rep., rept. repetatur repeats
RL, R/L   Ringer's lactate
s sine without (usually written with a bar on top of the "s")
s.a. secundum artum use your judgement
SC, subc, subcut, subq, SQ   subcutaneous "SC" can be mistaken for "SL", meaning sublingual; "SQ" can be mistaken for "5Q" meaning five every dose
sig   write on label
SL   sublingually, under the tongue
sol solutio solution
s.o.s., si op. sit si opus sit if there is a need
ss semis one half or sliding scale
s.i.d/SID once a day

SSI, SSRI sliding scale insulin or sliding scale regular insulin mistaken to mean "strong solution of iodine" or "selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor"
SSRI (antidepressant) selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor

(a specific class of antidepressant)

stat statim immediately
supp suppositorium suppository
susp   suspension
syr syrupus syrup
tab tabella tablet
tal., t talus such
tbsp   tablespoon
troche trochiscus lozenge
t.d.s. ter die sumendum three times a day
t.i.d. ter in die three times a day
t.i.w.   three times a week mistaken for twice a week
top.   topical
T.P.N.   total parenteral nutrition
tr, tinc., tinct.   tincture
tsp   teaspoon
U unit mistaken for a "4", "0" or "cc", spell out "unit"
μg microgram mistaken for "mg", meaning milligram
u.d., ut. dict. ut dictum as directed
ung. unguentum ointment
U.S.P.   United States Pharmacopoeia
vag   vaginally
w   with
wf   with food (with meals)
w/o   without
X   times
Y.O.   years old

List of symbols used in prescriptions

Symbols Latin Meaning Possible confusion
@ at mistaken for "2"; spell out "at"
> greater than mistaken for a "7"
< less than mistaken for an "L"
take, take this, or take thus prescription drug

Numerical abbreviationEdit

When expressing a numerical quantity, roman numerals are commonly used in place of actual digits so as to avoid confusion and foil attempts to receive more medication than prescribed. For numbers 1-3 however, a special abbreviation is used. The number one is written as a capital letter T with one dot overhead. The number two consists of two capital "T" letters connected at the top with a dot over each (resembling the Greek letter pi). The number three is likewise three "T" letters with three dots overhead. A similar system of numbering exists using the lower case letter "i" for the number one.

Discouraged practicesEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. The Official "Do Not Use" List of Abbreviations. The Joint Commission. URL accessed on 11 February 2011.
  2. ISMP's List of Error Prone Abbreviations, Symbols, and Dose Designations. Institute for Safe Medication Practices. URL accessed on 11 February 2011.
  3. Johnston, Mike (2006). [ The pharmacy technician series: Fundamentals of pharmacy practice], Pearson Prentice Hall.
  4. BNF (British National Formulary) - published twice yearly by the British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain

External linksEdit

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