Close this search box.

Common Medical Terms in Spanish and How to Use Them

The most common medical terms in Spanish communicate information about health problems, injuries, and treatments. They aid communication in medical emergencies and in regular healthcare. English-speaking healthcare workers learn medical Spanish to help treat Spanish-speaking patients. It’s important for anyone learning Spanish medical terms to learn how to use them correctly. Simply memorizing terms with only a superficial understanding of their correct usage can lead to shortcomings in communication and healthcare.

One of the most popular ways for someone who already has Spanish language skills to specialize them for employment is to learn medical Spanish. An increasing number of people who work in healthcare want to learn Spanish, too. Although many resources and articles contain lists of basic Spanish medical vocabulary, few show how to use the terms correctly in a sentence. It’s important to account for grammar and word order differences to avoid confusion. Some medical Spanish terms can be trickier than they seem.

ALTA Language Services is a leader in training medical interpreters. Language testing for employment is another of ALTA’s specialties. When possible, we infuse our content with our knowledge of language learning. This helps more people use their language for employment. In this case, it also connects people to better healthcare through better-used Spanish medical phrases.

In this post, ALTA Language Services helps readers do more than learn medical Spanish terminology. It teaches people to use the terms correctly. It may also help English speakers recognize them when Spanish speakers say them, which can deliver better healthcare to more patients.

Reasons to Learn Medical Spanish Terms and Phrases

It’s no surprise that many people in healthcare want to learn Spanish. Most healthcare employees prefer speaking directly to patients and helping them independently rather than using an interpreter. Many like learning and memorizing, which is required in most medical professionals’ education or training. Patients who speak Spanish may know a few medical phrases in English, but a bit of effort in learning Spanish medical terms can help the situation (if it isn’t a complicated medical emergency). It can be enriching for healthcare professionals, too. A knowledge of medical Spanish may even open the door to a promotion, raise or new job opportunities.

An English-speaking traveler to a Spanish-speaking country may want to develop their Spanish skills in case they need medical treatment there. In other countries, people tend to try new foods and new outdoor activities. Extended activity and sunlight on vacation can be fun…but end up problematic. For travelers with medical conditions, compiling a short medical history and a list of medications in Spanish can help resolve an emergency faster. Having to search for medical terms or hire an interpreter delays treatment.

How to Learn Spanish Medical Terms

Your method for learning Spanish medical terms depends on the context in which you’ll use them. Below are three of the most common reasons for learning medical Spanish and the path to achieving those goals.

To Operate Independently in the Medical Field

Many medical professionals want to develop their Spanish skills to work more independently in Spanish. They may even want to try to see Spanish-speaking patients without an interpreter or translator. These aspiring bilingual professionals should use the Spanish vocabulary below—but shouldn’t stop there. It’s important to push your Spanish further with additional study. Enrolling in a medical Spanish class may be a great option depending on your language background.

It’s important to understand your strengths and limitations in the Spanish language when caring for other people’s health. Medical Spanish terms can be fun to practice, but mistakes can happen in healthcare. Continuing to learn more about medical Spanish terms is the best way to serve patients.

To Use Medical Spanish at Work

Many medical professionals want to speak Spanish and use key phrases to improve rapport with Spanish-speaking patients. In effect, this looks like learning key Spanish medical phrases and having customer service vocabulary. For the goal of understanding patient ailments (a goal which may be set higher after some successes in Spanish), learning the Spanish medical terms below and how to use them is a perfect start. Once a person has success using basic phrases, their motivation to study more medical Spanish terminology can skyrocket!

To Travel

Learning Spanish medical phrases for travel is worthwhile. Some travelers want to ensure they or a loved one can get healthcare abroad. This may be during either an extended stay, a destination procedure, or just in case someone ends up in the Sala de Emergencia (ER). Depending on the specific use, it is wise to start with the lists below. Afterward, supplementing with specific Spanish medical terms for that particular health issue, like high blood pressure, is wise.

Spanish Medical Terms for Getting Oriented

Some of the most important Spanish medical terms help patients and healthcare professionals determine whether they are in the right place. Knowing whether they’re with or asking to see the correct medical professionals is important.

(The medical Spanish terms that are nouns are presented with the word “the” (el or la) in front, which shows the gender of the noun.)

  • la sala de emergencia – the emergency room
  • la clinica – the clinic or medical practice
  • el hospital – the hospital

A good verb to use with the medical buildings above is ir, which means to go. The verb ir has very irregular spelling in that it starts with the letter -v. You may recognize the form vamos, though. For example: Vamos al hospital. (Let’s go to the hospital).

  • el doctor / la doctora – the doctor
  • el médico / la médica – the doctor
  • el enfermero / la enfermera – the nurse
  • la medicina – the medicine
  • el seguro – the insurance

Medical Spanish Terminology for Describing Illness

The following words help describe illnesses and injuries.

  • El dolor – the pain
  • La sangre – the blood
  • La tos – the cough
  • La fiebre – the fever
  • La infección – the infection
  • Presión de sangre – blood pressure

Two great verbs that will help with these Spanish terms are Tener “to have”and Sufrir (de), “to suffer (from).” Tener is a verb with special spelling. Still, learning each form of teneris worthwhile because it’s just as common in Spanish as “have” is in English.

Common Spanish Parts of the Body

External Body Parts

  • La cabeza – the head
  • El cuello – the neck
  • El brazo – the arm
  • La mano – the hand
  • El pecho – the chest
  • La espalda – the back
  • La pierna – the leg
  • El pie – the foot

Common Internal Body Parts

  • El estómago – the stomach
  • La espina – the spine
  • El corazón – the heart
  • El cerebro – the brain
  • El hueso – the bone
  • El pulmón– the lung

Parts of the Head

  • La boca – the mouth
  • La nariz – the nose
  • La lengua – the tongue
  • El ojo – the eye
  • La oreja – the ear

Spanish Medical Phrases that Doctors and Nurses Use

Medical professionals who examine patients would benefit from learning the following phrases. Those traveling to a Spanish-speaking country can learn them if they anticipate they’ll come in handy.

Phrases for Medical Professionals to Say

Dónde le duele – Where does it hurt?

Abra la boca – Open your mouth

Voy a escuchar su corazón / pulmones – I’m going to listen to your heart / lungs

Voy a examinar su – I’m going to examine your _____ (body part)

¿Toma algún medicamento? – Do you take any medication?

Acuéstese por favor – Lie down please

Spanish Medical Phrases That Patients Say

Anticipating phrases that ill or injured Spanish speakers may say help medical professionals diagnose and treat the problem faster.

Phrases for Patients to Say (List)

  • Estoy enfermo/a – I’m sick
  • Me siento bien – I feel well
  • Me siento mal – I feel sick
  • Pérdida de peso – Weight loss
  • Estoy mareado/a – I am dizzy
  • Me cuesta respirar – It’s difficult to breathe
  • Estoy congestionado/a – I’m congested**(Many ways to express congestion exist; this is the closest to the English equivalent: I’m congested.)

Phrases for Patients About Pain

Talking about aches and pains in Spanish is one of the most difficult topics for English speakers. That’s because Spanish often uses a different order of words and different grammar for pain. Luckily, the return on studying investment is large for those working in the medical field.

The most common but difficult-to-understand phrase that expresses pain (which should still be on a list of important Spanish medical phrases) appears last. Saying “tengo dolor de ______ (body part)” is probably the best option for people who might be treated by Spanish speakers to learn. If you’re invested enough to study very different Spanish grammar, then study the last one.

Spanish medical phrases expressing pain

English speakers are accustomed to talking about the ache of a specific body part. The first bullet below is a strategy for a Spanish equivalent, although they may also express it in other ways.

Tengo dolor de ______ estómago / cabeza / garganta / oídos

(I have a/an stomach / head  / throat / ear ache)

Me duele aquí – It hurts here

Me duele el/la/los/las _________ (body part)

Using and Expanding Your Medical Spanish Terminology

This is an exciting base of Spanish medical terms to jumpstart a vocabulary base. It’s important to choose your learning methods based on the purpose of your medical Spanish. Those traveling will have different concerns than those hoping to use Spanish medical phrases for work.

Also, remember to study how to use the terms in a longer phrase or sentence. Anticipating what Spanish speakers will say about health, injury, and ailments can go a long way. Finally, don’t let expressing pain be more of a pain than necessary.

ALTA knows that connecting people so they can communicate better and faster results in better healthcare. Beginning a medical-Spanish-learning journey is a wise venture in the 21st century. Success with learning a few Spanish medical terms leads some people to study until they reach full proficiency.

Other Resources

Innovations in ALTA’s Language Services for Healthcare Organizations Ensure Effective Communication

Going to the doctor is stressful, especially if you don’t speak the same language as your provider. Think about all the complicated topics that come up during a doctor’s visit, like post-surgery recovery instructions or medication side effects. Communicating in...

Learn More

The Role of Certified Translators in Medical Document Translation Accuracy

Certified medical translators play a critical role in ensuring accuracy when translating medical documents between languages. Inaccuracies can have serious consequences for patient care and outcomes. Certified translators have extensive medical knowledge and adhere to strict quality standards to produce...

Learn More

The Importance Of Language Testing in Healthcare

Language tests play a vital role in reducing errors in the healthcare setting. When lives are on the line, accurate interpretation and translation are necessary. Language testing ensures that people in these roles have a high understanding of both language...

Learn More

Contact Us

Get Started Today

Interested in our language services? Complete the form or call us during business hours (9 AM to 6:00 PM ET) at 800.895.8210.

Preparing for your test?

View our test prep materials or FAQ’s for common questions about taking a test.