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[pri-skrip-shuh n] /prɪˈskrɪp ʃən/
  1. a direction, usually written, by the physician to the pharmacist for the preparation and use of a medicine or remedy.
  2. the medicine prescribed:
    Take this prescription three times a day.
an act of prescribing.
that which is prescribed.
  1. Also called positive prescription. a long or immemorial use of some right with respect to a thing so as to give a right to continue such use.
  2. Also called positive prescription. the process of acquiring rights by uninterrupted assertion of the right over a long period of time.
  3. Also called negative prescription. the loss of rights to legal remedy due to the limitation of time within which an action can be taken.
(of drugs) sold only upon medical prescription; ethical.
Compare over-the-counter (def 2).
Origin of prescription
1250-1300; Middle English < Medieval Latin praescrīptiōn- (stem of praescrīptiō) legal possession (of property), law, order, literally, a writing before, hence, a heading on a document. See prescript, -ion Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for prescription
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Duncan, alone in the store, was busy behind the prescription counter.

    The Fortune Hunter Louis Joseph Vance
  • I want details of the new process—the prescription, in fact.

    Roden's Corner Henry Seton Merriman
  • I cannot give you the prescription because it is a trade secret.

    Roden's Corner Henry Seton Merriman
  • Von Holzen had destroyed the prescription before her on purpose.

    Roden's Corner Henry Seton Merriman
  • At the end he made a note in his card-index and wrote out a prescription.

    The Education of Eric Lane Stephen McKenna
British Dictionary definitions for prescription


  1. written instructions from a physician, dentist, etc, to a pharmacist stating the form, dosage strength, etc, of a drug to be issued to a specific patient
  2. the drug or remedy prescribed
(modifier) (of drugs) available legally only with a doctor's prescription
  1. written instructions from an optician specifying the lenses needed to correct defects of vision
  2. (as modifier): prescription glasses
the act of prescribing
something that is prescribed
a long established custom or a claim based on one
  1. the uninterrupted possession of property over a stated period of time, after which a right or title is acquired (positive prescription)
  2. the barring of adverse claims to property, etc, after a specified period of time has elapsed, allowing the possessor to acquire title (negative prescription)
  3. the right or title acquired in either of these ways
Word Origin
C14: from legal Latin praescriptiō an order, prescription; see prescribe
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for prescription

late 14c., in law, "the right to something through long use," from Old French prescription (13c.) and directly from Latin praescriptionem (nominative praescriptio) "a writing before, order, direction," noun of action from past participle stem of praescribere "write before, prefix in writing; ordain, determine in advance," from prae "before" (see pre-) + scribere "to write" (see script (n.)). Medical sense of "written directions from a doctor" first recorded 1570s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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prescription in Medicine

prescription pre·scrip·tion (prĭ-skrĭp'shən)

  1. A written order, especially by a physician, for the preparation and administration of a medicine or other treatment.

  2. A prescribed medicine or other treatment.

  3. An ophthalmologist's or optometrist's written instruction, as for the grinding of corrective lenses.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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