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See also: under-dose


Alternative forms[edit]


under- +‎ dose, by analogy with overdose.


underdose (plural underdoses)

  1. An inadequate dose (of a medication).
    • 1871, E. D. E. N. Southworth, Cruel as the Grave, Philadelphia: T.B. Peterson & Bros., Chapter 31, p. 333,[1]
      [] I put laudanum in his coffee last night. I was afraid to put in too much for fear of killing him, so I suppose I didn’t put in enough, for he laid wide awake all night.”
      “Ah, yes! that would be the effect of an under-dose of laudanum.”
    • 1960, Muriel Spark, The Bachelors, London: Macmillan, Chapter 7,
      If Patrick were to add a little sugar to her urine specimen so that she would take a hefty dose of insulin, and then to make her take a good walk without her little tin of glucose [] she would probably pass out on the mountainside. Or suppose he substituted his own urine in the test tube so that she would take an under-dose?
  2. (figuratively) An inadequate amount of something.
    • 1955, Jim Kjelgaard, The Lost Wagon, New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., Chapter Eight,[2]
      “Seems as though sometimes I get an overdose of feeling, and an underdose of sense.”
    • 1979, Tom Shales, “‘Eischied’ Walks Tall,” The Washington Post, 21 September, 1979,[3]
      It seems the kid suffers from an underdose of mother love, so he kills pretty girls—exactly the problem of Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.”



underdose (third-person singular simple present underdoses, present participle underdosing, simple past and past participle underdosed)

  1. (transitive, intransitive) To administer an inadequate dose (to someone or to oneself).
    • 1945, Alexander Fleming, Nobel acceptance speech, cited in Jenny Rohn, “The hunt is on for new antibiotics—but we have to start looking outside the lab,” The Guardian, 19 February, 2015,[4]
      The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops. Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.
    • 2016, Kelly Close, letter to the editor, The New York Times, 29 February, 2016,[5]
      It is true that insulin costs are high; as a result some patients may underdose. We need better reimbursement to address that.
  2. (transitive) To administer an inadequate dose of (a medication).
    • 1679, Richard Fletcher, The Vertues of that Well-Known and Often Experienced Medicine Fletcher’s Powder, London, “Directions for the Use of that Excellent Medicine Fletcher’s Powder,” p. 6,[6]
      [] a Child new-born may take an eighth or tenth part of a paper, a Child of a year old a quarter of a paper or a sixth part, 2, 3, or 4 years old a third 5, 6, 7, half a paper, &c. for you cannot hurt if you over or under dose it a little; the Medicine being safe.
    • 2013, Judy Mandell, “‘Critically Ill’ author Frederick Southwick on what ails our healthcare system,” Los Angeles Times, 26 July, 2013,[7]
      An intern underdosed her heparin (blood thinner), and she suffered a large blood clot in a lung.
    • 2016, Samuel J. Mann, “The Scandal of Uncontrolled Hypertension: A Widely-Overlooked Remedy,” HuffPost, 21 August, 2016,[8]
      One such drug class can solve uncontrolled hypertension in perhaps half of cases yet is widely under-prescribed and/or under-dosed, with tragic consequences.
  3. (figuratively, intransitive) To use a scant or inadequate amount of an ingredient or product.
    • 2016, Stephen Bush, “Delia’s Christmas cake recipe takes a little bit of practice,” The Guardian, 4 November, 2016,[9]
      My advice is to slightly under-dose on the whiskey in Delia’s recipe, who I imagine went for a rather better bottle than I did.