Definition of prescribe in US English:



[with object]
  • 1(of a medical practitioner) advise and authorize the use of (a medicine or treatment) for someone, especially in writing.

    ‘Dr. Greene prescribed magnesium sulfate’
    with two objects ‘the doctor prescribed her a drug called amantadine’
    • ‘Your doctor may prescribe a medicine for depression or anxiety.’
    • ‘The patient presented symptoms and the doctor prescribed treatment.’
    • ‘My blood and urine were tested and the doctors did not prescribe any medicine but advised me to avoid salt.’
    • ‘The proposed regulations would have veterinary surgeons prescribing all medicines, including preventative drugs.’
    • ‘Medical schools no longer taught complementary and alternative medicine, so doctors didn't prescribe those treatments.’
    • ‘Your doctor may prescribe medicines if you have a pacemaker and your heart rate is too fast.’
    • ‘Your doctor will prescribe a medicine that is safe for you and the baby.’
    • ‘Perhaps you're afraid that sharing this information with your doctor may result in your doctor not prescribing medicines to you when you need them.’
    • ‘The doctor prescribes treatment to a patient, with self administration supervised by the nurse.’
    • ‘Traditional doctors practice acupuncture and prescribe herbal medicine for the prevention and treatment of illness.’
    • ‘Over the years, many doctors have prescribed medicines to prevent them, but none has worked.’
    • ‘In some cases, your doctor may prescribe medicine to help your child breathe easier.’
    • ‘If necessary, your child's doctor may prescribe medicines to relieve symptoms.’
    • ‘Your doctor can also prescribe medicine if it's needed.’
    • ‘Why shouldn't nurses prescribe medicines or order x-rays?’
    • ‘Because the causes of dermatitis are sometimes difficult to pinpoint, a doctor may prescribe various treatments.’
    • ‘Afterward, your doctor may prescribe preventive medicine to help you control your headaches without having to rely so heavily on pain remedies.’
    • ‘For patients with special dietary needs, the physician prescribes medical nutrition therapy using liquid formulas, dietary supplements, and vitamin therapy.’
    • ‘While waiting for the hole to close, your child's doctor may prescribe medicines, many of which some children also need to take after surgery.’
    • ‘If your child feels nausea, the doctor can also prescribe a medicine for that.’
    order, advise, authorize, direct
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    1. 1.1 Recommend (a substance or action) as something beneficial.
      ‘marriage is often prescribed as a universal remedy’
      • ‘It is a place to perhaps meet with an herbalist who will analyze your pulse and your forehead and prescribe foods and herbs to restore your interior balance.’
      • ‘As a breeder, I recommend and prescribe the diet I prefer using for my own dogs and that has worked best for me.’
      • ‘She also prescribes beer and wine for certain conditions as well.’
      • ‘He answered the question in large part by prescribing a diet of the noblest foods to be eaten before the child is conceived.’
      • ‘Under no circumstances are they ever allowed (no matter how much they believe in the product) to prescribe booze as a cure for heartache.’
      • ‘Mr. Joseph will inspect plants, prescribe fertilizers and pesticides and suggest measures to revitalise them.’
      • ‘He prescribed a strict diet that required Jim to avoid foods like milk, bread, and pasta.’
      • ‘For thousands of years herbalists have been using and prescribing herbs both singly as well as in complex formulas usually in the form of tea.’
      • ‘I prescribed herbs for her - milk thistle and dandelion - and the levels of toxins in her liver came down.’
      • ‘Snyder prescribed either petrol or a mixture of ground black coffee, salt and saliva.’
      advise, recommend, advocate, commend, urge, suggest, subscribe to, endorse, support, back, champion, argue for, promote
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    2. 1.2 State authoritatively or as a rule that (an action or procedure) should be carried out.
      ‘rules prescribing five acts for a play are purely arbitrary’
      ‘doing things in the prescribed manner’
      • ‘Such authorization may prescribe procedures for approval and payment of such expenses.’
      • ‘It details the statutory duties of various public functionaries while prescribing the procedures to be adopted for the timely collection and preservation of vital pieces of evidence.’
      • ‘The structured, prescribed way of life and philosophy makes the group experience all the more intense.’
      • ‘It was said in argument that the statute of Louisiana does not discriminate against either race, but prescribes a rule applicable alike to white and colored citizens.’
      • ‘The Code of Practice also indicates the form that managers reviews should take, although it does not prescribe specific procedures.’
      • ‘One way in which a court may legitimately regulate its processes is by prescribing a procedure to be conducted entirely in writing.’
      • ‘We then have to move to a position whereby there are regulations or rules prescribing forms.’
      • ‘Kruger said legislation governing the ostrich industry prescribed this method of culling.’
      • ‘In addition, the testing of surface water is prescribed by the European Union.’
      • ‘In prescribing the ways to celebrate the happy day, Islam has adopted another unique approach.’
      • ‘In particular, it must be a source of some concern that the 1981 Act prescribes no real procedures or mechanisms under which a decision to order the slaughter of animals takes place.’
      • ‘It does not prescribe any one method but provides a framework to help a business find the best way for achieving success.’
      • ‘The policy should also prescribe the procedures to be followed in such a case.’
      • ‘‘We can't prescribe that way of thinking,’ Andrew says emphatically.’
      • ‘The legislature not only commands the purse, but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated.’
      • ‘In these countries there is greater emphasis on a clear set of rules prescribing actions and methods to deal with uncertain and ambiguous situations.’
      • ‘As a first step the Government should prescribe certain rules to be practised by every pupil.’
      • ‘It prescribes a way of life and a set of rituals to be enacted by its followers.’
      • ‘This is the hazard of cutting corners and disregarding procedures prescribed by law.’
      • ‘No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with the procedure prescribed by law.’
      stipulate, lay down, dictate, specify, impose, set down, determine, establish, fix, formulate, appoint, decree, order, command, pronounce, ordain, require, direct, enjoin, make provision for, promulgate
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The verbs prescribe and proscribe do not have the same meaning. Prescribe is a much more common word than proscribe and means either ‘issue a medical prescription’ or ‘recommend with authority’: the doctor prescribed antibiotics. Proscribe, on the other hand, is a formal word meaning ‘condemn or forbid’: gambling was strictly proscribed by the authorities


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘confine within bounds’, also as a legal term meaning ‘claim by prescription’): from Latin praescribere ‘direct in writing’, from prae ‘before’ + scribere ‘write’.