List of abbreviations used in medical prescriptions

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This is a list of abbreviations used in medical prescriptions and hospital orders (sometimes referred to as sig codes). This list does not include abbreviations for pharmaceuticals or drug name suffixes such as CD, CR, ER, XT (See Time release technology § List of abbreviations for those).

Capitalization and the use of periods is a matter of style. In the list, Latin is not capitalized whereas English acronyms are.

Abbreviations which are not recommended by the Joint Commission are marked in red. Those abbreviations which are discouraged by other organizations are marked in orange.

The Joint Commission is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization which offers accreditation to hospitals and other health care organizations in the United States. While their recommendations are not binding on U.S. physicians, they are required of organizations who wish accreditation by the Joint Commission.


Not recommended for use in the United States by the Joint Commission[1]
Not recommended for use by other organizations, such as the ISMP (Institute for Safe Medication Practices)[2])

List of abbreviations used in medical prescriptions[3]

Abbreviation Latin or Greek Meaning Possible confusion
aa, āā, ĀĀ ana of each
AAA   apply to affected area
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 Latin, "at liberty"; as much as one desires; freely (compare pro re nata, "as needed", which includes an aspect of "up to some maximum")
admov. admove apply
agit agita stir/shake
alt. h. alternis horis every other hour
a.m.m. ad manu medicae at doctor's 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
BDS/bds bis die sumendum twice daily
bis bis twice
b.i.d./b.d. bis in die twice daily AMA style avoids use of this abbreviation (spell out "twice a day")
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; also cf. means confer=compare
comp.   compound
cr., crm   cream
CST   Continue same treatment
D or d   days or doses ambiguous meaning, write out "days" or "doses"
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
dL deciliter
d.t.d. dentur tales doses give of such doses
DTO   deodorized tincture of opium can easily be confused with "diluted tincture of opium," which is 1/25th the strength of deodorized tincture of opium; deaths have resulted due to massive morphine overdose[4]
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 the hour of sleep) at bedtime or half-strength ambiguous (two meanings, easily conflated); spell out
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
IT intrathecal mistaken for other abbreviations; spell out
IU international unit mistaken for "IV" or "10", spell out "international unit"
IV   intravenous
IVP   intravenous push
IVPB   intravenous piggyback
kg   kilogram
L.A.S.   label as such
LCD   coal tar solution
lin linimentum liniment
liq liquor solution
lot.   lotion
MAE Moves All Extremities
mane mane in the morning
M. misce mix
m, min minimum a minimum
mcg microgram Recommended replacement for "µg" which may be confused with "mg"
m.d.u. more dicto utendus to be used as directed
mEq   milliequivalent
mg   milligram
mg/dL milligrams per deciliter
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
NPO nil per os nothing by mouth AMA style avoids use of this abbreviation (spell out "nothing by mouth")
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[5])
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
p.c.h.s. post cibum et hora somni after meals and at bedtime
pig./pigm. pigmentum paint
p.m. post meridiem evening or afternoon
p.o. per os by mouth or orally AMA style avoids use of this abbreviation (spell out "orally")
p.r. or PR per rectum by rectum
PRN, prn pro re nata as needed
pulv. pulvis powder
PV per vaginam via the vagina
q quaque every, per
q.a.d. quaque alternis die every other day
q.a.m. quaque die ante meridiem every day before noon
q.d./q.1.d. quaque die every day mistaken for "QOD" or "qds," spell out "every day" or "daily". AMA style avoids use of this abbreviation (spell out "every day")
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 or every evening
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.i.d. quater in die four times a day can be mistaken for "qd" or "qod," write out "4 times a day". AMA style avoids use of this abbreviation (spell out "4 times a day")
q4PM at 4pm mistaken to mean every four hours
q.o.d. quaque altera die every other day mistaken for "QD," spell out "every other day". AMA style avoids use of this abbreviation (spell out "every other day")
qqh quater quaque hora every four hours
q.s. quantum sufficiat a sufficient quantity
QWK every week
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 artem according to the art (accepted practice); 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
s.i.d/SID semel in die once a day used exclusively in veterinary medicine
sig signa write on label
SL   sublingually, under the tongue
S.O.B, SOB shortness of breath
sol solutio solution
s.o.s., si op. sit si opus sit if there is a need
ss semis one half or sliding scale mistaken for "55" or "1/2"
SSI, SSRI sliding scale insulin or sliding scale regular insulin mistaken to mean "strong solution of iodine" or "selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor"
SNRI (antidepressant) Serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor
SSRI (antidepressant) selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor

(a specific class of antidepressant)

stat statim immediately
SubQ subcutaneously
supp suppositorium suppository
susp   suspension
syr syrupus syrup
tab tabella tablet
tal., t talus such
tbsp   tablespoon
t.d.s./TDS ter die sumendum three times a day
t.i.d. ter in die three times a day AMA style avoids use of this abbreviation (spell out "3 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
troche trochiscus lozenge
tsp   teaspoon
U unit mistaken for a "4", "0" or "cc", spell out "unit"
u.d., ut. dict. ut dictum as directed
ung. unguentum ointment
U.S.P.   United States Pharmacopoeia
vag   vaginally
w   with
w/a   while awake
wf   with food (with meals)
w/o, s   without
X   times
Y.O.   years old
μg microgram mistaken for "mg", meaning milligram

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"
recipe take, take this, or take thus

Similarity of handwritten letters[edit]

Especially in handwritten prescriptions or orders, and most especially in hasty handwriting (which is the usual kind), letter shape can be ambiguous. The example below compares "a" and "o" in a script where both consist of an incoming stroke, a loop from about 12 o'clock, and an outgoing stroke. They differ only in the angle of the latter.

Circle sheer blue 29.png
Circle sheer blue 31.gif
Cursive script 'a' and capital 'A' in the U.S. D'Nealian script style
Circle sheer blue 29.png
Circle sheer blue 29.png
Cursive script 'o' and capital 'O' in the U.S. D'Nealian script style

Numerical notation[edit]

When expressing a numerical quantity, Roman numerals are commonly used in place of arabic digits so as to avoid confusion. The numbers 1 - 3, (I, II, III) usually written as upper-case Roman numerals, often have the appearance of a capital "T" or a series of capital "T's" with a dot above each "T." They are also sometimes written as lower-case Roman numerals (i, ii, iii).

Currently discouraged practices[edit]


  1. ^ "The Official "Do Not Use" List of Abbreviations" (PDF). The Joint Commission. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 
  2. ^ "ISMP's List of Error Prone Abbreviations, Symbols, and Dose Designations" (PDF). Institute for Safe Medication Practices. Retrieved 11 February 2011. 
  3. ^ Johnston, Mike (2006). The pharmacy technician series: Fundamentals of pharmacy practice. Pearson Prentice Hall. p. 24. ISBN 9780131147515. 
  4. ^ "Recurring Confusion Between Opium Tincture and Paregoric". Pharmacy Times. Retrieved 2015-01-19. 
  5. ^ BNF (British National Formulary) - published twice yearly by the British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain

External links[edit]