What does "PRN" mean?

On some job listing websites, I see the letters “PRN” used sometimes when referring to the status or type of job. I feel like a tremendous idiot for asking this, but can anyone explain to me what this means? I’m usually good at figuring out acronyms, but for the life of me I can’t figure this one out.

If the jobs are in the nursing field, the following could be an option:

From this site.

“Probably Really Nonsensical”

Ah. I’m not looking for nursing positions, but I am looking for a job in the healthcare field.

But not a PRN job…I’ll need a more steady income than that. Right now the most interesting job opening is in the Minneapolis metro area, a place I know little about except that it’s cold and the people are generally OK.

Thanks for the assist, Ice Wolf.

Nitpick: An acronym is an abreviation which you pronounce like a word, such as “SCUBA” or “NASA.” An abbreviation which you don’t pronounce as a word, like “PRN” or “SDMB” is an abbreviation.

I have no idea WTF “PRN” means though.

friedo, I don’t think that’s right. Check any dictionary for the definition of abbreviation and acronym.

Actually, friedo was right about what an acronym is, and I stand corrected on my misuse of the term in the OP.

Atreyu, the link you provided mentions nothing to back up friedo’s claims. In fact, if you click on that page’s link to TLA, it gives examples of some acronyms, such as NNTP, FTP, and SCCS. How are those pronounced as words?

It is a pity that more people don’t study Latin and ancient Greek today. Long ago when the world was young, I studied them, and it enriched my understanding of the English language. It makes sense of a lot of technical words and phrases.

  1. PRN in this context is probably an abbreviation for “pro re nata”. In Latin this means “for the business born” - that is for an occasion as it arises. Over here, we would probably call this a contract job or temp (temporary) job, as opposed to a permanent employee.

  2. As you know from your ancient Greek studies, acronym means a name based on initials. The “acro” bit means “top” or “tip” i.e. the initials. The “onym” bit means name.

So, strictly an acronym must be a name like NATO, MASH or radar, that you can say. By extension of the “acro” part, I suppose Gestapo is also an acronym, although it uses more than one initial letter from the original German words.

If you don’t say it as a word, an abbreviation is not an acronym. USA is not an acronym, because people say the letters U,S,A, and do not say Oosah.

Well, I checked. Merriam Webster says:


Granted, Merriam’s definition for abbreviation does not exclude acronyms, so I will concede that acronyms are a subset of abbreviations. But it is clear that an acronym must be pronounced as if it were a word.

I realize this is one of those common-usage issues that I will probably lose soon, just like “irregardless” has become so common that it’s actually in the dictionary now.

Wow we read the same passage and get a different idea of the meaning. Your definition quoted for acronym said nothing about pronunciation.

I have only heard of p.r.n. being used in writing prescriptions as in, ‘take as needed’. I think it may have a different meaning when referring to law?

I’m in the medical field, and PRN is an abbreviation for the aforementioned Latin, and basically means “as needed”, like on a prescription “Lortab every 6 hours, prn” In a job description it would mean the same thing…The company would need you on a PRN basis: when needed, or where needed. (like the PRN nurse positions in my hospital will be scheduled on days where the staffing is short, or they’ll go to another floor where the staffing is short that day)


Is it just me, or are the smileys different colors today? And I still want Smashy back, dammit!

Yes, the smilies are back to Version 1.x. And “bah!” to Smashie.