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What do the letters "Rx" have to do with medicine prescriptions?

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Is this used in countries outside the US? –  Steve Melnikoff Nov 19 '10 at 16:37
    
Yes it is. At least here in Argentina. As it's from Latin, it might be well spread across the world. –  Petruza Feb 3 '11 at 20:21

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Rx means "prescription", for example an "Rx-only drug" is one available only on prescription. It is derived loosely from the Latin recipe, to take.

See

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Side note: In German, "recipe" and "prescription" are identical words ("Rezept"). –  balpha Nov 22 '10 at 12:29

It's because doctors have terrible handwriting...

No, actually, I think it stands for the Latin "recipe", a Latin imperative form meaning "take".

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Terrible handwriting is a much better etymology for this :) –  Joe Kearney Nov 19 '10 at 0:34
    
Yes, note the similarity between recipe, reception and receive. All related to take or receive. –  Petruza Feb 3 '11 at 20:19

Rx was originally written (and still is preprinted on some prescription forms) as a ligature, consisting of an upper case R with a bar across its tail. The ligature was used as a time-saving abbreviation for the imperative Recipe "Take thou" because in the days before packaged medications, prescriptions were (and to some extent still are) written in Latin and Latin abbreviations, and their function was to direct the pharmacist to gather certain ingredients and combine them in a customized way.

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