Teaching Spanish Medical Vocabulary

By Curt Smothers

Spanish students can enrich their vocabulary by periodic concentration on specialized terms. This article provides a specialized Spanish vocabulary list of common non-life-threatening illnesses and conditions and a suggested classroom activity for students to imprint and relate the terms.

List 1 - Conditions, Illnesses

  • ache, pain - el dolor
  • bite (insect) - la picadura
  • broken bone - el hueso roto
  • chest cold - el resfriado de pecho
  • constipation - el estreñimiento
  • cut (in skin) - la cortadura
  • dental cavity - el caries
  • earache - el dolor de oídos
  • flu - la gripe
  • hay fever - el fiebre del heno
  • head cold - el resfriado de cabeza
  • headache - el dolor de la cabeza
  • heartburn - la acedía
  • injury - la herida
  • motion sickness - el mareo
  • nosebleed - la hemorragia nasal
  • rash - la erupción
  • sore (noun) - la llaga
  • stomach ache - el dolor de estómago

List 2 - Medical Symptoms

  • bleeding - la sangría
  • bloody - ensangrentado/a
  • bruise - el moretón
  • cough - la tos (toser)
  • diarrhea - la diarrea
  • dizziness - el vértigo
  • fatigue - la fatiga
  • fever - la fiebre calentura
  • infection - la infección
  • nausea - la náusea,
  • runny nose - la nariz mucosa
  • sneeze - el estornudo
  • sore (adjective) - dolorido
  • sore throat - el dolor de garganta
  • swelling - la hinchazón
  • throbbing pain - el dolor pungent
  • tonsillitis - la amigdalitis

List 3 - Cures, Remedies, and Treatments

  • antacid - el antiácido
  • antihistamine - el antihistamínico
  • Anti-itch creme - la crema para comezón
  • antiseptic - el antiséptico
  • aspirin - la aspirina
  • band-aid - el esparadrapo
  • bandage - la venda
  • cough syrup - el antitusivo
  • dental filling - la obturación
  • first aid - los primeros auxilios
  • laxative - el laxante
  • plaster cast - el yeso
  • emergency room - la sala de emergencia
  • shot - la inyección
  • tonsillectomy - la tonsilectomía

Suggested Classroom Activities

Divide the class into three groups. Give each student one of the three listings above. Individual students will circulate and confer with students who have different lists. The goal is for reach student to gather and record related medical words from the other lists and add them to the original list. For example, el dolor en el estómago (stomach ache) (List 1) is related to el antácido (antacid), since an antacid would be a cure (List 3). Relationships need not be direct, but students should be prepared to explain their reasons for adding words to their list. A sample student worksheet follows this section.

Poll the class to determine which students were able to garner the most additional vocabulary words. Review each term individually to see the results of the exercise. Consider adding a vocabulary matching quiz to a regularly scheduled quiz. (See also the suggested matching quiz in the next section.)

Materials for Classroom Activities

WorksheetMatching Quiz

Downloadable Vocabulary Sheet

A downloadable version of the medical vocabulary in this article is available at Spanish Medical Vocabulary Handout.

A downlaodable sample quiz for Vocabulary for Occupations is available. Substitute vocabulary from this article to use the quiz for this vocabulary lesson