Basic Spanish For Medical Personnel

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

This lesson provides you with some basic vocabulary and expressions that are common in medical contexts. Given the need to communicate with patients, the vocabulary and expressions guide you in that sense.

Medical Terminology in Spanish is Not So Foreign

The possibility to have to communicate with a patient in Spanish may seem challenging at first. However, the new words you learn can become familiar very quickly. The reason is that, as happens in English, a lot of the medical terminology in Spanish has its origin in Latin. This leads to words with very similar spelling and easy to recognize. These type of words are known as cognates. Thus, some medical vocabulary will not seem as foreign to you once you learn and practice the following words and expressions.

Some Useful and Easy Vocabulary

Below is a list of useful words related to several medical fields:

  • la diabetes (the diabetes, pronounced: lah dee-ah-bay-tays)
  • el asma (the asthma, pronounced: el ahs-ma)
  • el laboratorio (the laboratory, pronounced: el lah-bor-ah-tor-ee-o)
  • la muestra de orina (the urine sample, pronounced: la mways-tra day or-ee-na)
  • la sangre (the blood, pronounced: lah sahn-gray)
  • la emergencia (the emergency, pronounced: lah ay-mehr-hayn-see-ah)
  • la fractura (the fractura, pronounced: lah frahk-too-ra)
  • la inyección (the injection, pronounced: lah een-yehk-see-ohn)
  • la infección (the infection, pronounced: lah een-fehk-see-ohn)
  • las medicinas (the medicines, pronounced: lahs may-dee-see-nahs)
  • la receta or la prescripción (the prescription, pronounced: lah ray-say-tah or lah pray-screep-see-ohn)
  • la alergia (the allergy, pronounced: lah ah-lehr-hee-ah)
  • la quimioterapia (the chemotherapy, pronounced: lah kee-mee-o-tehr-ah-pee-ah)
  • el cáncer (the cancer, pronounced: el kahn-sehr)

The Human Anatomy and Pain Symptoms

When you need to ask patients some questions regarding symptoms, human anatomy vocabulary is basic. Below is a list of useful words in your medical practice.

  • la cabeza (the head, pronounced: lah kah-bay-sah)
  • el estómago (the stomach, pronounced: el eh-sto-mah-go)
  • el oído (the ear, pronounced: el o-ee-do)
  • el brazo derecho (the right arm, pronounced: el brah-so dehr-eh-cho)
  • el brazo izquierdo (the left arm, pronounced: el brah-so ees-kee-ehr-do)
  • la pierna derecha(the right leg, pronounced: lah pee-ehr-na dehr-eh-cha)
  • la pierna izquierda (the left leg, pronounced: lah pee-ehr-na ees-kee-ehr-da)
  • el pie derecho (the right foot, pronounced: el pee-ay dehr-eh-cho)
  • el pie izquierdo (the left foot, pronounced: el pee-ay ees-kee-ehr-do)

For the extremities, the plural is as follows:

  • los brazos(the arms)
  • las piernas (the legs)
  • los pies (the feet)

In order to ask the general question 'What symptoms do you have?' you say: ¿Qué síntomas tiene usted?. The question 'Where does it hurt?' is ¿Dónde le duele?.

When pain symptoms are present, patients will use the expression me duele, which means 'it hurts...' (pronounced: may dway-lay) followed by the respective human part.

Thus, if a patient has pain on their head, the answer is me duele la cabeza. Similarly, if the pain is on their stomach, the answer is me duele el estómago.

For plural, the answer is me duelen as is the case with me duelen las piernas, which means 'my legs hurt'.

In order to ask a specific question such as 'Does your ear hurt' you would ask ¿Le duele el oído?. So, you would always use ¿Le duele followed by the respective human part.

The Ache Vocabulary

As in English, patients can also express pain with two different expressions. They can either say 'My head hurts' or 'I have a headache'. This second way to express pain symptoms in Spanish is tengo dolor de (I have an ache of, pronounced: tehn-go doh-lohr deh).

Thus, the patient may say: Tengo dolor de cabeza (I have a headache), tengo dolor de oído (I have an earache), etc.

Feeling Symptoms

Patients often express symptoms by using the expression me siento or siento (I feel; pronounced: may see-ehn-to).

The possibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Me siento mareado/mareada (I feel dizzy masculine/feminine)
  • Me siento cansado/cansada (I feel tired masculine/feminine)
  • Me siento nervioso/nerviosa (I feel nervous masculine/feminine)
  • Me siento somnoliento/somnolienta (I feel sleepy masculine/feminine)
  • Siento náusea (I feel nauseous)

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