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Proscribe vs Prescribe


  • ‘Proscribe’ (verb) means ‘forbid or not allow something’.
  • ‘Prescribe’ (verb) means ‘advise or order the use of something’.

What’s the difference between ‘proscribe’ and ‘prescribe’?

Though just one letter distinguishes one from the other, these words have entirely opposite meanings.

  • When someone (typically a health professional) prescribes something, they want you to do or take it. If they proscribe something, they order you not to do or take it. So it is best not to confuse them!
  • Both verbs can occur with the same nouns in the medical field (e.g. drugs), adding to the confusion.

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How they’re used

Example sentences with ‘proscribe’

  • States have a collective power to proscribe international crimes.
  • The guidelines proscribed surgeons performing genetic testing.

Example sentences with ‘prescribe’

  • Our survey showed they were hesitant to prescribe morphine.
  • Alongside therapy, the doctor prescribed medication.