RX and what it means

What the “Rx” on Prescription Drugs Means

RX and what it meansHow much do you know about the “Rx” on your prescription medication labels? Have you ever wondered what it means?

While often overlooked, this abbreviation is actually filled with centuries of history.

Today we know Rx as the symbol for medication prescription. However, let’s dig a bit deeper into the meaning behind this age old symbol.

Written Form

“Rx” is written as the heading of the prescription. It is followed by abbreviations that tell the specifics of the medication’s dosage and timing.

Many people think that Rx is written as two letters. But it’s actually one symbol. The ‘R’ loops down and curls below the line with the ‘x’ slashing through the end.

When doctors write a prescription they use the Rx to give instructions to the patient.

Theories Of Origin

The exact meaning of Rx is debated in medical circles to this day. The origin of the symbol may go back to medieval times or further. There are several theories about how the Rx symbol came to be. These three theories are the more commonly debated explanations.

Latin Roots

The general consensus is that Rx derives from the latin word “recipere”. This translates to “to take”. It was a direction that a patient was to take a medication prescribed and mixed by an apothecary.

The symbol Rx eventually becomes a command meaning, “take this”.  In the symbol, you are seeing a capital Roman letter ‘R’. Today Rx signifies “prescription” and sometimes even “medicine”.

Egyptian Protection

Another theory states that Rx has ancient Egyptian origins. This history says the symbol comes from the “Eye of Horus“.

This was a symbol thought to keep away evil and protect Egyptian kings in the afterlife. It was also used for good health and had a connection to healing.

Roman Mythology

Some scholars believe that the Rx symbol has roots in Roman mythology. This theory states that it derives from the symbol for the god Jupiter.

In Roman mythology, Jupiter was the king of the Roman gods. The Rx symbolized a prayer call to Jupiter for healing. This was a prayer for Jupiter’s help and assurance that the prescription would help the patient.


These ancient symbols actually look similar to the Rx. Look closely and you’ll see a slight resemblance. There are similarities in the Jupiter and Egyptian Eye of Horus symbols.

The History Of Pharmacy

One thing that is certain is that pharmacies are thousands of years old. The practice of preparing and dispensing drugs goes back a very long time.

The very prescriptions were carved onto a clay tablet around 2100B.C. in Mesopotamia. Drugstores go back to the eighth century ancient Baghdad. The first drugstores to hit the U.S. were around the 17th century.

The process of filling prescriptions has clearly come a long way. You can easily fill a prescription on a website like Canada Pharmacy Online.

Fast Facts About Today’s Prescription Industry

  • Most prescriptions are filled by people aged 65 and older.
  • Women fill almost 50% more prescriptions than males.

The Rx symbol has also influenced the creation of other medical abbreviations. Many doctors abbreviate words with just an uppercase letter and x. ‘Sx’ for symptoms and ‘Hx’ for history are two examples.

Rx continues to be an industry symbol for pharmacists around the world.