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Home > Student Corner > Miscellaneous > Latin Abbreviations in Pharmacy Practice

 Written by: Hanan Khalaf. RPH

Abstract:
The history of Latin abbreviations' use in medical practice is very old. The reason why it is important for pharmacy students to be introduced to such terms is they are still widely used in prescription writing and taught to pharmacy and medical students. The following article will discuss common abbreviations still in use nowadays with pros and cons of using them.

 

               

 

 

 

Origin of Latin abbreviations

The use of Latin abbreviations in prescription writing is dated back to 1400s, since Latin was the main language in Western Europe for hundreds of years. Nowadays, the use of Latin in prescriptions is limited to the directions for taking or using the medication.

 

Common Abbreviations

 

Abbreviation

Meaning

Latin

a.c. 

before food

ante cibum

a.d. or AD

right ear

auris dexter

ad. lib.

freely as wanted

ad libitum

a.l.

left ear

aurix laevus

alt. die

every other day

alternus die

alt. h.

every other hour

alternus horis

a.m.

morning

ante meridiem

aq.

water

aqua

a.s. or AS

left ear

auris sinister

a.u. or AU

each ear

auris utro

aurist.

ear drops

auristillae

b.d.

twice a day

bis die

b.i.d.

twice a day

bis in die

cap.

capsule

capsula

div.

divide

divide

eq.pts.

equal parts

equalis partis

gtt.

drop

gutta

h.

hour

hora

h.s.

at bedtime

hora somni

mane

in the morning

mane

mixt.

mixture

mixtura

narist.

nasal drops

naristillae

no.

number

numero

nocte

at night

nocte

O.

pint

octarius

oc.

eye ointment

oculentum

o.d.

daily

omni die

o.d. or OD

right eye

oculus dexter

o.l.

left eye

oculus laevus

o.m.

in the morning

omni mane

o.n.

at night

omni nocte

o.s. or OS

left eye

oculus sinister

o.u. or OU

each eye

oculus utro

p.c.

after food

post cibum

p.m.

afternoon

post meridiem

p.o.

orally

per os

p.r.

rectally

per rectum

p.r.n.

as occasion requires

pro re nata

p.v.

vaginally

per vaginum

q.4.h.

every 4 hours

quaque 4 hora

q.6.h.

every 6 hours

quaque 6 hora

q.d. or QD

every day

quaque die

q.d.s.

four times a day

quater die sumendus

q.i.d.

four times a day

quater in die

q.o.d or QOD

Every other day

quaque altera die

q.q.h.

every four hours

quarta quaque hora

q.s.

a sufficient quantity

quantum sufficiat

s.i.d.

once a day

semel in die

Sig. or S.

write on the label

signa

stat.

immediately

statim

supp.

suppository

suppositorum

syr.

syrup

syrupus

tab.

a tablet

tabella

t.d.s.

three times a day

ter die sumendus

t.i.d.

three times a day

ter in die

ut dict. or u.d.

as directed

ut dictum

ung.

ointment

unguentum

 

 

Be careful

Despite their widespread use in prescription writing, some of them are considered dangerous to use by Institute of Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) since they have been found to cause serious medication errors as a result of misinterpretation. Hence, their use is discouraged. Problematic Latin abbreviations are illustrated in the following table:

 

Abbreviation

Intended Meaning

Misinterpretation

Correction

AD, AS, AU

Right ear, Left ear, Each ear

Mistaken as OD, OS, OU (right eye, left eye, each eye)

Use "right ear", "left ear", "each ear".

OD, OS, OU

Right eye, left eye, each eye

Mistaken as right ear, left ear, each ear.

Use "right eye", "left eye", "each eye".

HS 

 

hs  

Half-strength

 

at bed-time, hours of sleep

Mistaken as bedtime

Mistaken as half-strength

Use "half-strength"

 

Use "bedtime"

o.d.  or OD

Once daily

Mistaken as "right eye" (OD Oculus Dexter) leading to oral medications given through the eye

Use "daily"

Per os

By mouth, orally

"os" can be mistaken as left eye

Use "PO", "by mouth" or "orally".

q.d. or QD

Every day

Mistaken for q.i.d,

Use "daily"

qhs

Nightly at bedtime

Mistaken as "qhr" or every hour.

Use nightly.

q.o.d or QOD

Every other day

Mistaken as "q.d" (daily) or "q.i.d" (four times daily)

Use "every other day"

 

 

For a more comprehensive list of problematic abbreviation, check the following link http://www.ismp.org/Tools/errorproneabbreviations.pdf

 

 

References:

http://www.wmhp.org.uk/latin.htm

http://www.ismp.org/Tools/errorproneabbreviations.pdf

http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/695_prescrip.html

http://www.herbdatanz.com/pharmaceutical_latin_abbreviations.htm

http://latin-phrases.co.uk/dictionary/a/

http://www.medfriendly.com/

 

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