An over-the-counter drug is one you can buy without a prescription. Aspirin is an over-the-counter drug, but for antibiotics or other prescription drugs, you'll have to see the pharmacist.

Over-the-counter drugs can be bought without a doctor's permission. You don't even have to go to the pharmacy to get over-the-counter drugs, just march up to the counter and buy it. There are all kinds of over-the-counter drugs, like pain relievers, allergy medicine, or various types of heartburn relief. Generally, over-the-counter drugs are less potentially dangerous than prescription drugs, so they’re easier to buy.

Definitions of over-the-counter
  1. adjective
    purchasable without a doctor's prescription
    “an over-the-counter cold remedy”
    synonyms: nonprescription
    see moresee less
    available only with a doctor's written prescription
  2. adjective
    (of securities) not traded on a stock exchange
    over-the-counter stocks”
    synonyms: otc
    not on a list
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by Vocabulary.com’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week