Common Medical Abbreviations

Snapshot: This article reviews commonly used medical abbreviations, including their common meanings and (where relevant) their Latin language roots, for a variety of medication-related terms and categories.

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Medication Timing Medication Instructions Medication Administration & Placement Amount of Medication Medication Containers Medication Types Medication Routes & Sites

Medication Timing

Abbreviation Meaning Latin Root
a.c. Before meals ante cibum
alt h. Every other hour Alternis horis
 bis Twice Bis
b.d./b.i.d. Twice daily Bis in die
b.t. Bedtime
h, hr Hour Hora
h.s. At bedtime Hora somni
noct. At night Nocte
p.c. After meals Post cibum
q Every Quaque
q.a.d. Every other day Quoque alternis die
q.d.s Four times a day Quarter die sumendus
q.h. Every hour Quaque hora
q.h.s. Every night at bedtime Quaque hora somni
q.1 h, q. 1 Every 1 hour; (can replace “1” with other numbers) Quaque 1 hora
q.d., q.1d Every day Quaque die
q.i.d. Four times a day Quattuor in die
q.o.d. Every other day
qqh Every four hours Quarter quaque hora
stat Immediately Statim
t.d.s. Three times a day Ter die sumendum
t.i.d. Three times a day Ter in die
X Times

Medication Instructions

Abbreviation Meaning Latin Root
dc, D/C, disc Discontinue or discharge
mist. Mix Mistura
mitte Send Mitte
s Without (usually written with a bar on top of the “s”) Sine
s.a. Use your judgment Secundum artum
PRN, prn As needed Pro re nata
u.d., ut, diet. As directed Ut dictum
w With
wf With food (with meals)
w/o Without

Medication Administration & Placement

Abbreviation Meaning Latin Root
a.d. Right ear Auris dextra
a.l., a.s. Left ear Auris laeva, auris sinistra
a.u. Both ears Auris utraque
BUCC Inside cheek Bucca
c, c. With (usually written with a bar on top of the “c”) Cum
cc With food Cum cibo
cf With food
agit shake Agita
e.m.p. As directed Ex modo prescripto
s.o.s., si op. sit If there is a need Si opus sit

Amount of Medication

Abbreviation Meaning Latin Root
ad lib. Use as much as one desires; freely Ad libitum
bol. As a large single dose (usually intravenously) Bolus
g Gram
gr Grain
gtt(s) Drop(s) Gutta(e)
mcg microgram
mEq milliequivalent
mg milligram
mL Milliliter
tbsp Tablespoon
troche Lozenge Trochiscus
U Unit
ug Microgram
tsp Teaspoon

Medication Containers

Abbreviation Meaning Latin Root
amp Ampule
cap., caps. capsule Capsula
nebul A spray Nebula
sol solution Solutio
susp Suspension
syr Syrup Syrupus
tab Tablet Tabella
tr, tinc., tinct. Tincture
ung. ointment Unguentum

Medication Types

Abbreviation Meaning
D5W Dextrose 5% solution (sometimes written as D5W)
D5NS Dextrose 5% in normal saline (0.9%)
MgSO4 Magnesium sulfate
MS Morphine sulfate or magnesium sulfate
MSO4 Morphine sulfate
NS Normal saline (0.9%)
½ NS Half normal saline (0.45%)
RL,R/L Ringer’s lactate
T.P.N. Total perenteral nutrition

Medication Routes & Sites

Abbreviation Meaning Latin Root
ID Intradermal
IM intramuscular
IU International unit. (Note: can be mistaken for “IV” or “10”, spell out “international unit).
IV Intravenous
IVP Intravenous push
IVPB Intravenous piggyback
PO Per os Orally or by mouth
p.r. Per rectum By rectum
SC, subc, subcut, subq, SQ Subcutaneous
SL Sublingually, under the tongue
supp Suppositorium Suppository
top topical
vag Vaginally