prescribe

verb

pre·​scribe pri-ˈskrīb How to pronounce prescribe (audio)
prescribed; prescribing

intransitive verb

1
: to lay down a rule : dictate
2
[Middle English, from Medieval Latin praescribere, from Latin, to write at the beginning] : to claim a title to something by right of prescription
3
: to write or give medical prescriptions
4
: to become by prescription invalid or unenforceable

transitive verb

1
a
: to lay down as a guide, direction, or rule of action : ordain
b
: to specify with authority
2
: to designate or order the use of as a remedy
prescribed a painkiller
a prescribed burn to restore natural forest conditions
prescriber noun

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Proscribe vs. Prescribe

Proscribe and prescribe each have a Latin-derived prefix that means "before" attached to the verb "scribe" (from scribere, meaning "to write"). Yet the two words have very distinct, often nearly opposite meanings. Why? In a way, you could say it's the law. In the 15th and 16th centuries both words had legal implications. To proscribe was to publish the name of a person who had been condemned, outlawed, or banished. To prescribe meant "to lay down a rule," including legal rules or orders.

Examples of prescribe in a Sentence

This drug should not be prescribed to children. a drug commonly prescribed to treat rashes The doctor prescribed three months of physical therapy for my leg injury. The law prescribes a prison sentence of at least five years for the crime. The regulations prescribe that all employees must pass a physical examination. We must follow the rules as prescribed by the government. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Insurance coverage creates challenges Children who were prescribed Flovent are not all being prescribed a one-to-one swap like the generic to Flovent, which is Fluticasone. USA TODAY, 21 Feb. 2024 In 2023, the group had to defend itself in an ongoing lawsuit alleging that its promotion of hydroxychloroquine led to the death of a Nevada man who had been prescribed the anti-malarial drug by a doctor affiliated with the organization. Lauren Weber, Washington Post, 21 Feb. 2024 Hospice care is meant to ease the end for both patient and family, prescribed for those with less than six months to live. Peter Baker, New York Times, 17 Feb. 2024 These men were compared to the remaining respondents, who were not prescribed these drugs. Angelica Stabile, Fox News, 16 Feb. 2024 As last miles go, medication adherence – when patients take the medication that’s been prescribed to them – is among the toughest. Seth Joseph, Forbes, 15 Feb. 2024 For most other people, doctors consider cholesterol levels in combination with age, family history of heart disease, smoking history and other factors before deciding whether to prescribe a drug, Wilkins said. Knvul Sheikh, San Diego Union-Tribune, 13 Feb. 2024 Based on the underlying problem, a healthcare provider can prescribe proper treatments. Dr. Roshini Raj, Health, 9 Feb. 2024 In response, their doctors may prescribe dietary supplements like calcium, vitamin D and nutritional supplement shakes. Emily Hemendinger, Discover Magazine, 10 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'prescribe.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English, from Latin praescribere to write at the beginning, dictate, order, from prae- + scribere to write — more at scribe

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of prescribe was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near prescribe

Cite this Entry

“Prescribe.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prescribe. Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

prescribe

verb
pre·​scribe pri-ˈskrīb How to pronounce prescribe (audio)
prescribed; prescribing
1
: to lay down as a rule of action
the route that was prescribed
2
: to order or direct the use of something as a remedy
the doctor prescribed an antibiotic
prescriber noun

Medical Definition

prescribe

verb
pre·​scribe pri-ˈskrīb How to pronounce prescribe (audio)
prescribed; prescribing

intransitive verb

: to write or give medical prescriptions

transitive verb

: to designate or order the use of as a remedy
prescribe a drug

Legal Definition

prescribe

verb
pre·​scribe pri-ˈskrīb How to pronounce prescribe (audio)
prescribed; prescribing

intransitive verb

1
: to claim title or a right to something (as an easement) by prescription
a precarious possessor cannot prescribe against the owner
2
in the civil law of Louisiana : to become unenforceable or invalid by prescription
any party having an interest in a money judgment may have it revived before it prescribesLouisiana Civil Code

transitive verb

1
: to lay down as a rule or guide : specify with authority
the times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the legislature thereofU.S. Constitution art. I
2
in the civil law of Louisiana : to invalidate or bar the enforcement of by prescription
this claim for damages shall not be prescribed so long as the minor's right of action exists against his tutorLouisiana Civil Code

More from Merriam-Webster on prescribe

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