A Technician's Guide to Pharmacy Abbreviations

Few technicians enter the pharmacy profession with aspirations of working as translators, but many find themselves playing that role the moment they step behind the drop-off counter.

Few technicians enter the pharmacy profession with aspirations of working as translators, but many find themselves playing that role the moment they step behind the drop-off counter.

Those who have difficulty decoding a prescriber’s directions can refer to the following guide, which lists many of the abbreviations and sig codes that are commonly found on prescriptions; however, there is currently no guide that can help techs or pharmacists decipher a prescriber’s handwriting.

Note that prescribers may omit periods where they are included below, and often capitalize a number of abbreviations that are listed in lowercase.

Abbreviation

Meaning

Notes

aa

of each

Derived from Latin, ana

AAA

apply to affected area

a.c.

before meals

Derived from Latin, ante cibum

a.d.

right ear

Derived from Latin, auris dextra

ad lib.

as much as desired; freely

Derived from Latin, ad libitum (“at one’s pleasure”)

a.m.

morning; before noon

Derived from Latin, ante meridiem

amp.

ampule

amt.

amount

APAP

acetaminophen

aq.

water

Derived from Latin, aqua

a.s.

left ear

Derived from Latin, auris sinistra

ATC

around the clock

a.u.

both ears

Derived from Latin, auris utraque

bib.

drink

Derived from Latin, bibe

b.i.d.

twice a day

Derived from Latin, bis in die

BP

blood pressure

bucc.

inside cheek

Derived from Latin, bucca

c.

with

Derived from Latin, cum; often written with a bar above it

cc

cubic centimeter (cm3)

Less commonly used as an abbreviation for cum cibo (“with food”)

cap.

capsule

cm

centimeter

Also used as an abbreviation for cream

d.

day

Derived from Latin, dies

DAW

dispense as written

d.c.; d/c

discontinue

dil.

dilute

disp.

dispense

div.

divide

dL

deciliter

DR

delayed-release

EC

enteric-coated

EOD

every other day

ER; XR

extended-release

et

and

Derived from Latin, et

f., ft.

make; let it be made

Derived from Latin, fiat

fl.

fluid

FXD

for 10 days

X = Roman numeral for 10

g, gm

gram

gal

gallon

gr.

grain

gtt.

drop

Derived from Latin, gutta

h., hr., hor.

hour

Derived from Latin, hora

HCT; HCTZ

hydrochlorothiazide

h.s.

at bedtime

Derived from Latin, hora somni (“at the hour of sleep”)

ID

intradermal

IM

intramuscular

IN

intranasal

inf.

infusion

inh.

inhalation

inj.

injection

IR

immediate-release

IU

international unit

IV

intravenous

K

potassium

kg

kilogram

L

liter

lb

pound

Derived from Latin, libra

liq.

liquid

lot.

lotion

m

meter

max.

maximum

mcg; μg

microgram

μ = Greek letter mu

MDP

Medrol Dosepak

Pre-dosed packaging of methylprednisolone (Medrol)

mg

milligram

min.

minimum

mL

milliliter

mm

millimeter

neb.

nebulizer

NSAID

nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug

Drug class that includes ibuprofen (Motrin)

o.d.

right eye

Derived from Latin, oculus dexter

ODT

oral disintegrating tablet

oint.

ointment

o.s.

left eye

Derived from Latin, oculus sinister

OTC

over the counter

o.u.

both eyes

Derived from Latin, oculus uterque

oz

ounce

PA

prior authorization

p.c.

after meals

Derived from Latin, post cibum

p.m.

evening; after noon

Derived from Latin, post meridiem

p.o.

by mouth; orally

Derived from Latin, per os

p.r.

rectally

Derived from Latin, per rectum

p.r.n.

as needed (for)

Derived from Latin, pro re nata

pt

pint

p.v.

vaginally

Derived from Latin, per vaginam

q

every; per

Derived from Latin, quaque

q12; q. 12 h.; q12°

every 12 hours

12 can be substituted with any number

q1-2; q. 1-2 h.; q1-2°

every 1 to 2 hours

1 and 2 can be substituted with any number

q.a.d.; q.o.d.

every other day

Derived from Latin, quaque alternis die

q.a.m.

every morning; every day before noon

Derived from Latin, quaque anti meridiem

q.d.

every day

Derived from Latin, quaque die

q.h.s.

every day at bedtime

Derived from Latin, quaque hora somni

q.i.d.

4 times a day

Dervied from Latin, quater in die

qt

quart

qty.

quantity

q.p.m.

every evening; every day after noon

Derived from Latin, quaque post meridiem

q.s.

a sufficient quantity

Derived from Latin, quantum sufficiat

q.w.

every week

Rx

prescription

Derived from Latin, recipere (‘to take”)

s.

without

Derived from Latin, sine; often written with a bar above it

SC; SQ; SubQ

subcutaneous

sig.

write; label

Derived from Latin, signa

SL; s.l.

sublingually; under the tongue

SOB

shortness of breath

sol.

solution

SSRI

selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor

Drug class that includes escitalopram (Lexapro) and fluoxetine (Prozac)

stat.

immediately

Derived from Latin, statim

supp.

suppository

susp.

suspension

syr.

syrup

tab.

tablet

TAD

take as directed

tbsp

tablespoon

t.i.d.

3 times a day

Derived from Latin, ter in die

top.

topical

troch.

lozenge

Derived from Latin, trochiscus

tsp

teaspoon

U

unit

u.d., ut. dict.

as directed

Derived from Latin, ut dictum

ung.

ointment

Derived from Latin, unguentum

w.

with

w/f

with food; with meals

w/o

without

Looking to test your knowledge of sig codes through some particularly difficult-to-understand prescriptions? Try reading some of these Rxs!