Moving to Spain: Must Know Vocab Words for your Health

updated Summer 2018

Often times when planning for a move abroad we stress over the vocabulary we think we’ll need – introducing ourselves, asking for directions, ordering food, saying please and thank you, etc – and skim over the boring stuff.

But like it or not, getting sick in Spain is all but inevitable. So, before moving to Spain, brush up on some essential words to know for healthcare and hospitals in Spain before your fever-riddled brain all but annihilates your ability to speak Spanish.


To get you started, COMO presents an A to Z guide for your salud en España.

  • Alergia a – to have an allergy or to be allergic to something.
  • Betadine – iodine antiseptic commonly used for cleaning small cuts. Don’t be alarmed by the yellow stain it leaves on your skin.
  • Centro de salud – health or primary care centre, where you’ll go to see a general physician for basic medical attention or to be referred to a specialist. This is also called an ambulatorio if there is an ER attached.
  • Dolor – pain / hurt / ache, used in all kinds of phrases to denote general malestar or discomfort.
    Use it as a verb: Me duele la garganta. – My throat hurts
    A noun: Tengo dolor de cabeza – I have a headache.
    Or an adjective: ¡Qué doloroso! – How painful.
  • Estar enfermo/a – to be or feel sick / ill.
  • Fiebre – to have a fever or temperature.
  • Gripe – the flu. For those working at primary schools, consider getting a vaccine (una vacuna) before flu season hits hard, because while wiping mocos or snot may not be part of your job description, we guarantee it’ll happen.
  • Herida – a wound, and hopefully not of the gaping variety. The word is also used figuratively to signify that someone’s behavior left you wounded.
  • Ibuprofeno – Ibuprofen, available at your local farmacia along with other common painkillers such as paracetemol and aspirina.
  • Jarabe – syrup, usually for a cough (tos)
  • Kilo – short for kilogram, and just a friendly reminder that your weight in Spain will be measured metrically, by a báscula or scale.


  • Ligera / leve – light / mild / minor – should you break, bust or contract anything while in Spain, we hope it will be of this variety, una enfermedad leve – a mild illness.
  • Médico – doctor. Note that female doctors are addressed as la or una médico. And here’s a bonus: enfermero/a is nurse.
  • Naúseas – queasy or sick, you know, when you’re about to vomit(ar)
  • Orina – We’re all adults now so let us save you the embarrassment of telling your doctor about your “pee.” Also, the verb form is orinar.
  • Pastillas – pills or tablets.
  • Quirófano – operating room or theatre, which we hope you’ll never have to see the inside of!
  • Receta – a prescription. The same word is also used for recipes in Spanish, which has led to many funny translation fails.
  • Sano/a – healthy, e.g. comida sana, healthy food
  • Tirita – a Band-Aid or plaster
  • Urgencias – the emergency room, for when you need urgente medical attention
  • Váter – literally toilet, as in the porcelain throne, but also bathroom or lavatory as in the place you go to sit on said throne.
  • Waaaaa – the sound you make when something hurts (give us a break, W is hard!)
  • X-ray – no translation needed, also known as una radiografía
  • Yeso – a cast or plaster, should you break a bone
  • LiZipaina – Spain’s most common throat lozenge 

Looking for even more vocabulary, advice and humor to prepare you for your move to Spain? With over 500 copies already sold, our 135+ page eBook Moving to Spain: A Comprehensive Guide to your First Weeks Teaching English in Iberia, is your one-stop source on moving to and working as an English teacher in Spain. We’ve compiled 16 years of experience into an easy-to-read, sometimes funny but ultimately helpful eBook that details everything from packing, paperwork, teaching private classes and more!

Moving to Spain COVER 2015 English

You asked for it, so we’ve worked overtime to push up our release of  Moving to Spain!

We’ve beefed up the contents and added a few extras so that you can make your move to Spain as smooth as possible. You can purchase Moving to Spain right now for 10 euros. Sign up for email updates and look out for special promotions on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Any other questions about health or health care in Spain? We’d love to hear them!

Author: Cat Gaa

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