Spanish illness and doctor phrases and vocabulary

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In today’s special audio, part of our mission to help you have your best Spanish learning year ever, Ben and Marina look at useful Spanish vocabulary and phrases connected with going to the doctor and describing illness and symptoms.

Many thanks to Sarah for helping out with this great list! If you have any useful phrases to add, please do so in the comments!

Here’s the list of phrases we discuss in the audio:

encontrarse bien – to feel well
no encontrarse muy bien – to feel unwell
encontrarse fatal – to feel terrible
encontrarse fenomenal – to feel great

estar malo – to be ill
ser malo – to be a bad person

estar enfermo – to be ill (temporary)
ser enfermo / ser un enfermo – to be permanently ill, or mentally ill

estar pachucho/a – to be ill (slang from Spain)

estar ñoño/a – to be in a funny mood/clingy when kids are ill (slang from Spain)

“No estoy muy católico/a” – I’m feeling rotten (slang from Spain)

me duele la cabeza – I’ve got a headache
me duele la garganta – I’ve got a sore throat
me duele la espalda – I’ve got backache

tengo gripe – I’ve got the flu
tengo fiebre – I’ve got a fever
tengo una tos muy fea – I’ve got a horrible cough

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10 thoughts on “Spanish illness and doctor phrases and vocabulary

  1. joyce

    After the discussion of “Eating Babies” it made me think, “When do we get to see a picture of your baby on the website?”

  2. Michael in Granada (Provincia)

    I agree the doctor´s surgery is a good place to expand your vocabulary. I had to have an injection a few weeks ago. The enfermera got the syringe prepared and I asked “¿En el brazo?” and she replied “No, en tu culete.” I knew exactlly where she meant but this was a new variation for me of “culo:” Was it a polite one…or a bit cheeky ?(oops no pun intended).

  3. Julia Burkett

    Hi – glad to hear you have survived ‘new baby syndrome’ well enough to send out your fun and informative e-mails once more! (boy? girl? – I’m sure when fast asleep with an angelic expression he/she is ‘good enough to eat!).

    The first ‘illness expressions’ I learned from a BBC tape were all based around: Tener dolor de…. e.g. tengo dolor de la cabeza. Is this less commonly used than say me duele la cabeza?

  4. Amibelle

    Ben & Maria,

    I agree that a pho of you baby girl/boy? would be nice but again thinking of the dangers although I would like to see this on second thought it wouldn’t be a good idea.

    Thanks for the vocab on illness


  5. Nesta Rovina

    Love this conversation, and the baby notes. I work with little babies and really need Spanish, but there are a few differences between the Spanish Spanish and that from Central and South America, pero no son muy importantes! Gracias

  6. Min José, from Southport, UK

    Felicidades por el nacimiento de vuestro hijo/a.
    Remarking on Michael’s mention of “culete”, well, to a Spaniard the word ‘culo’ is still taken as the word ‘arse’ would in English.
    Yet the word ‘culete’ sounds like ‘bum’, less embarrassing; so, she used the ‘correct’ appoach.

  7. Maryse

    ¡Muchas gracias! Siempre es un placer tener noticias tuyos y aprendar nuevas expresiones como “no estar muy católico”… Hasta pronto…

  8. lynn

    muchas gracias, ben y marina; me encantan mucho sus podcasts! hace 3 meses que yo estudie espanol y sus lecciones son mis favoritas.

  9. Sarah

    Fantastic! I particularly loved the story about the not-so-catholic chicken… (I may even have guffawed!).

    However, as I was listening, I realised that I left a really, really important one off the list: “estar constipado/a”.

    I’ll never forget when I first arrived in Spain and one of my new Spanish colleagues told me that she was a bit “constipada”. Assuming that the translation would be literal, I was really quite horrified at the level of “sharing” and told the folks back home that Spanish people were really a bit too open about medical matters.

    It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I discovered that “estar constipado/a” has the same meaning as “estar resfriado/a” (i.e. to have a cold) and realised my mistake!

    Thanks again for the podcast!

    Sarah x

    P.S. In case anyone is interested, to be “constipated” in Spanish is “estar estreñido/a” or “tener estreñimiento”.

  10. Ben Post author

    Re baby photos, he’s a bit shy 🙂

    @Michael in Granada, I agree with Min Jose, ‘culete’ is a bit like ‘bum’ or ‘backside’ – friendly and not too rude.

    @Julia – Tener dolor de… is just as common, you are right, either will do.

    @Sarah, thanks for the very important addition, and thanks again for your grear original list!

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