Over the counter

<strong>Over the counter</strong>

English is a language full of idioms, and phrases that have a symbolic rather than literal meaning. One such idiom is “ over the counter ”. This phrase is often used in a variety of contexts and can be confusing for non-native English speakers. In this article, we will explore the meaning and origins of the idiom “over the counter”.

The phrase “over the counter” is used to describe something that is available for purchase without a prescription or formal authorization from a professional. It is often used to refer to medications that can be purchased at pharmacies without needing a doctor’s note. However, it can also refer to other types of products that are available for purchase without any formal authorization.

The origin of this phrase can be traced back to the early 20th century when pharmacies started placing their medications on shelves behind the counter. Customers would have to ask the pharmacist for what they needed and the pharmacist would give them the medication. This process was known as “behind the counter”. Eventually, some medications were placed on the front counters, making them “over the counter” or available for purchase without having to ask the pharmacist.

Over the counter” can also refer to other products such as skincare, supplements, and even food items like vitamins and protein powder. These products are often available for purchase without a prescription and can be found in health food stores or drugstores.

The phrase “over the counter” is frequently used in American English and has become a widely accepted term in the pharmaceutical industry. It is used to distinguish between prescription drugs and non-prescription drugs such as painkillers, allergy medication, and cough syrup.

In medical contexts, “over-the-counter” is often abbreviated as “OTC” and is used to describe medications that can be purchased without a prescription. This makes it easier for doctors and pharmacists to communicate about the specific medication they are discussing.

<strong>Over the counter</strong>
Over the counter

 

The meaning of this idiom in some famous English dictionaries is explained below:

Oxford dictionary:

(of drugs and medicines) that can be obtained without a prescription (= a written order from a doctor)

Cambridge dictionary:

Over the counter; UK /ˌəʊ.və.ðəˈkaʊn.tər/ US  /ˌoʊ.vɚ.ðəˈkaʊn.tɚ/

  • If a drug, gun, etc. is available over the counter, you can buy it in a shop without having to visit a doctor or person in authority first
  • An over-the-counter drug is bought from a shop without the person who buys it having visited a doctor first:

Merriam-Webster dictionary:

sold lawfully without prescription

Longman dictionary:

over-the-counter drugs can be obtained without a prescription (=a written order) from a doctor

Collins dictionary:

If a medicine can be bought over the counter, you do not need a prescription.

Here are some examples:

  • You can buy most cold remedies over the counter.
  • Painkillers are available as an over-the-counter drug in many countries.
  • Guns can be bought over the counter in many states in the US.
  • Most antibiotics are over-the-counter and safe medicines in some pharmacies.

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Anyway, besides the above-mentioned meaning, this idiom has another meaning in business too. Here is the meaning of this idiom in business, in those English mentioned above dictionaries: English Idiom; Over the counter  

 Oxford dictionary:

(business) (of stocks and shares) not appearing on an official stock exchange list

Cambridge dictionary:

used to describe shares that are traded directly between dealers (= people and organizations that buy and sell for others), rather than on a stock market:

e.g., Brokers can use the system to look up prices or enter quotes for over-the-counter securities.

Merriam-Webster dictionary:

not traded or effected on an organized securities exchange

e.g., over-the-counter transactions

e.g., over-the-counter securities

Longman dictionary:

over-the-counter business shares are ones that do not appear on an official stock exchange list

Collins dictionary:

Over-the-counter shares are bought and sold directly rather than on a stock exchange.

 (business) (of stocks and shares) not appearing on an official stock exchange list

The English phrase “over the counter” is used to describe shares that are traded directly between dealers (= people and organizations that buy and sell for others), rather than on a stock market. e.g.:  Brokers can use the system to look up prices or enter quotes for over-the-counter securities.

Over the counter
Over the counter

 


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About Ahmad Osmani

Ahmad Osmani
I am Ahmad Osmani, an English teacher, and translator. I have more than 15 years of experience. I have been the administrator and writer of the website since its creation. I have studied Translation Studies and English Language. I love learning and teaching different languages. My main profession is writing and translating and sometime I teach English in my free time.

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