Medication Usage Abbreviations - (2024)

There are numerous abbreviations once may encounter

when reading over a doctor’s medication prescriptions.

Below is a guide to understanding some of the most

common of such abbreviations. You may also be

interested in the article on how to pay for medications

you cannot afford.

Please note that some of them may be written in capital

letters, lower case letters, with periods, or without


a.c. Before meals. From the Latin phrase “ante cibum” meaning “before meals.”

alt.h. = Every other hour. From the Latin phrase “alternis horis” meaning “every other


a.t.c. = Around the clock. This does not refer to continuous use of medication but rather

the use of medication and specified intervals throughout the day to maximize symptom

control. This abbreviation is sometimes written for pain medications.

b.i.d. = Twice a day. From he Latin phrase "bis in die," meaning "twice a day."

b.t. = Bedtime.

c or c with a line above it = With. From the Latin word “cum”

meaning “with.” This is used to state what to take the medication


cc = With food. From the Latin phrase “cum cibo” meaning “with

food.” This means to take the medication with food.

d.a.w. = Dispense as written. This means that the pharmacist

should fill the prescription as written and not substitute a generic


dieb alt. = Every other day. From the Latin phrase “diebus alternis” meaning “every other day.”

div. = divide. Some pills can be split, usually by a demarcated line in the middle of the pills. This is a way

to half some doses.

e.m.p. = As directed. From the Latin phrase “ex modo prescripto” meaning “as directed.”

n.m.t. = Not more than.

noct. = At night. From the Latin word “nocte” meaning “night.”

n.t.e. = Not to exceed.

p.c. = After meals. From the Latin phrase “post cibum” meaning “after meals.”

p.o. = By mouth. From the Latin phrase “per os” meaning “by mouth.”

p.r. = By rectum. From the Latin phrase “per rectum” meaning “by rectum.”

p.r.n. = As needed. This is one of the most common abbreviations and stands for “pro re nata,” Latin for

“as the circ*mstances arises.”

q.(followed by a number and sometimes the letter h.) = Every x number of hours. For example q.8h

means to use the medication every 8 hours. Another common abbreviation is q.4h. In these

abbreviations, the letter “q” stands for “quaque” which means “every.”

q.a.d. = See q.o.d.

q.a.m. = Every morning. From the Latin phrase “quaque ante meridiem,” meaning “every before noon.”

q.d. = Once a day. From the Latin phrase "quaque die," meaning "every day." This abbreviation is also

written as quotid (because the Latin word "quotidianus" means "daily." Many hospitals advise avoiding use

of this abbreviation because it is often confused with q.i.d. (four times a day) or q.o.d. (every other day)

which can have serious consequences for the patient.

q.d.s. = Four times a day. From the Latin phrase “qauter die sumendus” meaning “ four times a day.”

q.h. = Every hour. From the Latin phrase "quaque hora," meaning "every hour."

q.h.s. = At bedtime. From the Latin phrase "quaque hora somni," meaning "every hour of sleep."

q.i.d. = Four times a day. From the Latin phrase "quarter in die," meaning "four times a day."

q.l. = As much as one wants. From the Latin phrase "quantum libet," meaning "as much as one pleases."

q.o.d. = Every other day. From the Latin phrase "quaque altera die," meaning "every other day."

Technically, the abbreviation should really be q.a.d. (and some people use it this way), but sometimes

weird things happen with medical abbreviations.

q.p.m. = Every day after noon. From the Latin phrase “quaque post meridiem” meaning “every after


q.q.h. = Every four hours. From the Latin phrase “quarter quaque hora” meaning “every four hours.”

q.s. = As much as is needed. From “quantum sufficiat,” “quantum sufficit,” and “quantum satis,” Latin

phrases which all mean "as much as suffices" or "quantity required."

qwk = Every week. The "q" is from the Latin word “quaque” meaning “every” followed by the word week.

s with a line above it = Without. From the Latin word “sine” meaning “without.”

s.a. = Use your judgment. From the Latin phrase “secundum artem” meaning according to the art.

sl = Sublingual (under the tongue).

stat. = Immediately. From the Latin word “statim” meaning “immediately.”

tbsp. = Tablespoon.

t.i.d. = Three times a day. From the Latin phrase "ter in die," meaning "three times a day."

t.i.w. = Three times a week. From the Latin words “ter in” meaning three times, followed by the word


top. = Topical (applied on the skin).

tsp = Teaspoon.

w/a = While awake.

wf = With food.

X = The number of times one should do something. For example x3 could mean to use 3 pills.

Medication Usage Abbreviations - (2024)
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