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 (which is a separate article in itself) 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, an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization which offers accreditation to hospitals and other health care organizations in the United States (not binding on U.S. physicians, but required of organizations who wish accreditation by the Joint Commission) are marked in red. Those abbreviations which are discouraged by other organizations are marked in orange.

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

List of abbreviations used in medical prescriptions[3]

AbbreviationLatinMeaningPossible confusion
aaanaof each
AAA apply to affected area
a.c.ante cibumbefore meals
a.d.auris dextraright ear"a" can be mistaken as an "o" which could read "o.d.", meaning right eye
ad libitumuse as much as one desires; freely
alt. h.alternis horisevery other hour manu medicaeat doctor's hand
a.m.ante meridiemmorning, before noon
amp ampule
amt amount
a.l., a.s.auris laeva, auris sinistraleft 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 utraqueboth ears"a" can be mistaken as an "o" which could read "o.u.", meaning both eyes
BDS/bdsbis die sumendumtwice daily
b.i.d./b.d.bis in dietwice dailyAMA style avoids use of this abbreviation (spell out "twice a day")
B.M. bowel movement
BNF British National Formulary
bol.bolusas a large single dose (usually intravenously)
B.S. blood sugar
B.S.A body surface areas
b.t.bedtimemistaken for "b.i.d", meaning twice daily
BUCCbuccainside cheek
cap., caps.capsulacapsule
c, c.cumwith (usually written with a bar on top of the "c")
cccum cibowith 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
D or d days or dosesambiguous 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 dischargeambiguous meaning
dieb. alt.diebus alternisevery other day
dil. dilute
disp. dispersible or dispense
div. divide
d.t.d.dentur tales dosesgive of such doses
DTO deodorized tincture of opiumcan 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 prescriptoas directed
eod every other day
ex aqex aquain water
fl., fld. fluid
ft.fiatmake; let it be made
g gram
gr grain
H hypodermic
h, hrhorahour
h.s.hora somniat bedtime
h.shour sleep or half-strengthambiguous meaning
ID intradermal
IJ, injinjectioinjectionmistaken for "IV", meaning intravenously
IM intramuscular (with respect to injections)
INintranasalmistaken for "IM", meaning intramuscular, or "IV", meaning intravenously
IP intraperitoneal
ITintrathecalmistaken for other abbreviations; spell out
IUinternational unitmistaken 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
lot. lotion
MAEMoves All Extremities
manemanein the morning
m, minminimuma minimum
mcgmicrogramRecommended replacement for "µg" which may be confused with "mg"
m.d.u.more dicto utendusto be used as directed
mEq milliequivalent
mg milligram
mg/dLmilligrams per deciliter
MgSO4magnesium sulfatemay be confused with "MSO4", spell out "magnesium sulfate"
mL millilitre
MSmorphine sulfate or magnesium sulfatecan mean either morphine sulfate or magnesium sulfate, spell out either
MSO4morphine sulfatemay be confused with "MgSO4", spell out "morphine sulfate"
nebulnebulaa spray
N.M.T. not more than
noct.nocteat night
non rep.non repetaturno repeats
NPOnil per osnothing by mouthAMA 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
odomne in die, right eyeevery day/once daily (preferred to qd in the UK[5])
odoculus dexterright eye"o" can be mistaken as an "a" which could read "a.d.", meaning right ear, confusion with omne in die
omomne maneevery morning
onomne nocteevery night
o.p.d. once per day
o.s.oculus sinisterleft eye"o" can be mistaken as an "a" which could read "a.s.", meaning left ear
o.u.oculus uterqueboth eyes"o" can be mistaken as an "a" which could read "a.u.", meaning both ears
oz ounce
perperby or through cibumafter meals
pig./pigm.pigmentumpaint meridiemevening or afternoon
p.o.per osby mouth or orallyAMA style avoids use of this abbreviation (spell out "orally")
p.r. or PRper rectumby rectum
PRN, prnpro re nataas needed
PVper vaginamvia the vagina
qquaqueevery, per
q.a.d.quaque alternis dieevery other day
q.a.m.quaque die ante meridiemevery day before noon
q.d./q.1.d.quaque dieevery daymistaken 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 sumendusfour times a daycan be mistaken for "qd" (every day)
q.p.m.quaque die post meridiemevery day after noon or every evening
q.h.quaque horaevery hour
q.h.s.quaque hora somnievery night at bedtime
q.1 h, q.1°quaque 1 horaevery 1 hour; (can replace "1" with other numbers)
q.i.d.quater in diefour times a daycan 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")
q4PMat 4pmmistaken to mean every four hours
q.o.d. every other daymistaken for "QD," spell out "every other day". AMA style avoids use of this abbreviation (spell out "every other day")
qqhquater quaque horaevery four hours
q.s.quantum sufficiata sufficient quantity
QWKevery week
PR rectal
rep., rept.repetaturrepeats
RL, R/L Ringer's lactate
ssinewithout (usually written with a bar on top of the "s")
s.a.secundum artemaccording 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/SIDsemel in dieonce a dayused exclusively in veterinary medicine
sigsignawrite on label
SL sublingually, under the tongue
S.O.B, SOBshortness of breath
s.o.s., si op. sitsi opus sitif there is a need
sssemisone half or sliding scalemistaken for "55" or "1/2"
SSI, SSRIsliding scale insulin or sliding scale regular insulinmistaken 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)

susp suspension
tal., ttalussuch
tbsp tablespoon
t.d.s./TDSter die sumendumthree times a day
t.i.d.ter in diethree times a dayAMA style avoids use of this abbreviation (spell out "3 times a day")
t.i.w. three times a weekmistaken for twice a week
top. topical
T.P.N. total parenteral nutrition
tr, tinc., tinct. tincture
tsp teaspoon
Uunitmistaken for a "4", "0" or "cc", spell out "unit"
u.d., ut. dict.ut dictumas directed
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
μgmicrogrammistaken for "mg", meaning milligram

List of symbols used in prescriptions

SymbolsLatinMeaningPossible confusion
@atmistaken for "2"; spell out "at"
>greater thanmistaken for a "7"
<less thanmistaken for an "L"
recipetake, take this, or take thus

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". The Joint Commission. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 
  2. ^ "ISMP's List of Error Prone Abbreviations, Symbols, and Dose Designations". 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. ^ "Hazard Alert! Recurring Confusion Between Tincture of Opium and Paregoric". Institute for Safe Medication Practices. Retrieved 2014-10-28. 
  5. ^ BNF (British National Formulary) - published twice yearly by the British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain

External links[edit]