How Prescriptions Came to Be Abbreviated As Rx

In a new episode of the informative trivia series Today I Found Out, host Simon Whistler explains how medical prescriptions came to be abbreviated as Rx.

While there are a few commonly put forth explanations as to how we ended up with the ? symbol, it’s generally thought that it has medieval roots as an abbreviation for a form of the Late Latin word “recipere” meaning “to take.” The imperative form of this word, “recipe,” meant “take…” as in, “take two and call me in the morning.”By the 1580s, the word “recipe” had been slightly modified in Middle French to récipé, and had come to mean “medical prescription.” In fact, this meaning of the word prevailed until the mid-1700s, when it was also applied to food preparation. Regardless, when giving a prescription, physicians typically began their directive with the command “recipe,” which ultimately was abbreviated to ?. Other common abbreviations used in the medical field that also included an “x” were things like “dx” (diagnosis), “sx” (signs and symptoms), and “hx” (history).