pre·​scrip·​tion | \pri-ˈskrip-shən \

Definition of prescription 

1a : the establishment of a claim of title to something under common law usually by use and enjoyment for a period fixed by statute

b : the right or title acquired under common law by such possession

2 : the process of making claim to something by long use and enjoyment

3 : the action of laying down authoritative rules or directions

4a : a written direction for a therapeutic or corrective agent specifically : one for the preparation and use of a medicine

b : a prescribed medicine

c : something (such as a recommendation) resembling a doctor's prescription prescriptions for economic recovery

5a : ancient or long continued custom

b : a claim founded upon ancient custom or long continued use

6 : something prescribed as a rule

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Examples of prescription in a Sentence

The drug is only sold with a prescription. I have to pick up my prescription.

Recent Examples on the Web

The figure is striking because Purdue has long denied a prime role in the opioid epidemic by noting that OxyContin sales only account for a small percentage of opioid prescriptions in the US—just 1.7 percent in 2016. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "Mega-rich family behind opioid crisis has second, secret opioid company," 10 Sep. 2018 Know where the nearest hospital is Young kids are prone to cuts, bumps, bruises, and upset tummies; older family members might have existing medical conditions, so bring along copies of any prescriptions. David Jefferys, Condé Nast Traveler, "How to Survive a Family Vacation," 20 July 2018 Hackers targeting Singapore’s largest healthcare institution, SingHealth, stole the personal profiles of some 1.5 million patients, as well as the details of prescriptions for 160,000 others. James Vincent, The Verge, "1.5 million affected by hack targeting Singapore’s health data," 20 July 2018 Last year the vast majority of prescriptions were picked up in person. The Economist, "Amazon takes a big step into online pharma," 5 July 2018 About 85 percent of prescriptions in the United States are for refills, according to Iqvia. New York Times, "Amazon to Buy Online Pharmacy PillPack, Jumping Into the Drug Business," 28 June 2018 What of the other worthies, like the Long Island CVS Pharmacy clerk who informed a woman about her husband’s Viagra prescription, which came as a complete surprise — to her. John Kass,, "Is it time for Time to get the Golden Moutza? Or will it be about Waters or water?," 29 June 2018 The more pills in the first opioid prescription, the greater the chance of becoming addicted. The Economist, "Hospitals are learning from industry how to cut medical errors," 28 June 2018 The pharmacist refused to fill the prescription, citing his ethics. Bree Burkitt, azcentral, "Arizona board to investigate complaint over pharmacist's denial of miscarriage medication," 25 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'prescription.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of prescription

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for prescription

partly from Middle English prescripcion establishment of a claim, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin praescription-, praescriptio, from Latin, act of writing at the beginning, order, limitation of subject matter, from praescribere; partly from Latin praescription-, praescriptio order

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Last Updated

17 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for prescription

The first known use of prescription was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for prescription



English Language Learners Definition of prescription

: a written message from a doctor that officially tells someone to use a medicine, therapy, etc.

: a medicine or drug that a doctor officially tells someone to use

: something that is suggested as a way to do something or to make something happen


pre·​scrip·​tion | \pri-ˈskrip-shən \

Kids Definition of prescription

1 : a written direction or order for the preparing and use of a medicine

2 : a medicine that is ordered by a doctor as a remedy


pre·​scrip·​tion | \pri-ˈskrip-shən \

Medical Definition of prescription 

1 : a written direction for the preparation, compounding, and administration of a medicine

2 : a prescribed remedy

3 : a written formula for the grinding of corrective lenses for eyeglasses

4 : a written direction for the application of physical therapy measures (as directed exercise or electrotherapy) in cases of injury or disability

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pre·​scrip·​tion | \pri-ˈskrip-shən \

Legal Definition of prescription 

1 : acquisition of an interest (as an easement) in real property that is usually less than a fee by long-term, continuous, open, and hostile use and possession as determined by the law of a jurisdiction gained title by prescription — see also easement by prescription at easement — compare adverse possession at possession

2 in the civil law of Louisiana

a : the running of a period of time set by law after which a right is unenforceable in Louisiana courts but may be enforced in another state forum an interruption of prescription by the prescription of ten years also : the bar to an action that results from prescription — see also peremptory exception — compare peremption

b : the creation of a right by the running of a period of time set by law especially : acquisitive prescription in this entry predial servitudes on property of the state may not be acquired by prescription Louisiana Civil Code

acquisitive prescription \ ə-​ˈkwi-​zə-​tiv-​ \

: acquisition of ownership or other real rights in movables or immovables by continuous, uninterrupted, peaceable, public, and unequivocal possession for a period of time (as 10 years) set by law also : such possession that creates real rights acquisitive prescription is interrupted when the possessor acknowledges the right of the owner Louisiana Civil Code

Note: The Louisiana Civil Code has set various periods of time for acquisitive prescription of movables and immovables. With the shorter periods (as 10 years for immovables or 3 years for movables) the Code also requires that the possessor possess in good faith and under just title. Acquisitive prescription does not run in favor of a person having precarious possession, because he or she possess the property on behalf of or with permission of the owner, until the possessor begins to possess the property on his or her own behalf (as after a lease terminates).

liberative prescription

: a period of time set by law (as one year) after which legal action is barred if no steps have been taken to enforce or litigate the right delictual actions are subject to a liberative prescription of one yearLouisiana Civil Code

Note: Liberative prescription is similar to the common-law statute of limitations.

prescription of nonuse

: the extinguishment or termination of a real right other than ownership as a result of the failure to exercise the right for a period of time (as 10 years) set by law also : the period of time

3 : something prescribed as a rule created a legal prescription against such acts

History and Etymology for prescription

partly from Middle French prescription establishment of a claim, from Late Latin praescription- praescriptio, from Latin, act of writing at the beginning, order, from praescribere to write at the beginning, dictate, order; partly from Latin praescription- praescriptio order

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