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4 Tricky Medical Spanish Words You Need To Know About

4 Tricky Medical Spanish Words You Need To Know About

In a world of double entendre, multiple meanings and delicate medical topics, it’s important to be certain about the words you’re using with patients as you speak Spanish.

This free Medical Spanish lesson focuses on understanding the different meanings of these 4 tricky medical Spanish words, that way you can use them properly when talking with your Spanish speaking patients without hesitation.

Here is the Tricky Medical Spanish Words lesson I taught to the Facebook group:

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4 palabras difíciles: back in Spanish, butt in Spanish, rate in Spanish, and screen in Spanish:

These 4 tricky words in Spanish show up in clinical settings all of the time. They are tricky because there isn’t always a 1:1 translation for these words when you move from English to Spanish. As you’ll see in these examples below, sometimes there is a 1:4 or even 1:5 relationship. These examples show that your first consideration always needs to be context, and you need to ask yourself the question: “What is the best translation for the idea I’m trying to express?” Here are some examples:

Common uses of the word “back”

  • The body part or Anatomy (anatomía)
  • The position (posición) that an object or individual is in.
  • The direction (dirección) in which something is moving.
  • The side of an object, specifically the reverse side (reversa)

The word “butt” in Spanish

Most of the time when you’re referring to the word butt in Spanish in a clinical setting, you’re referring to anatomy, the body part. Butt can mean many other things as well, but I explain all of that in this other post: Common Words for Butt in Spanish. The tricky part about this word is that you can unknowingly use an offensive term, or too childish of a terms if you’re not careful. In a clinical setting, you want to sound professional, not edgy nor childish. See the best use examples below.

Multiple meanings for rate in Spanish:

Rate is another word in Spanish that varies greatly depending on your context. Here are some different meanings:

  • The frequency (frecuencia) that an action occurs
  • The speed or pace (velocidad or ritmo) that an object moves at
  • A ratio (proporción) between two things
  • The price or fee (precio or tarifa) that something sells for
  • The action of evaluating or classifying (evaluar or clasificar) something

Two common meanings for Screen in Spanish:

  • The screen of a device (like a monitor or mobile device)
  • The action of testing or questioning to assess

Let’s take a closer look at each of these 4 tricky words in Spanish and see some everyday examples of their use in the clinical setting:


Anatomy: la espalda, la cintura (lower)  
El paciente tiene dolor de espalda  The patient has back pain
No le duele la cintura (lower back) el dolor está más arriba The lower back doesn’t hurt, the pain is higher
Reverse side of a body part: el dorso  
Ella se cortó el dorso de la mano She cut the back of her hand
Position: en el fondo, al fondo  
El paciente se sentó al fondo de la sala. The patient sat down in the back of the room
Come back, return: volver, regresar  
Vuelvo para ver cómo está en 2 horas.  I’ll be back to see how you are in 2 hours
Give back (return): devolver  
La mamá no devolvió el teléfono a su hijo. The mom didn’t return the phone to her son
To Support: apoyar, respaldar  
Nosotros estamos aquí para apoyarle a usted. We are here to support you



La pompis, las pompis Bottom (for a child)
El niño se cayó en las pompis – no se lastimó  The child fell on his bottom – he didn’t hurt himself
Los glúteos Bottom / Butt for adults
Caution with: las nalgas, el trasero  Nalgas and trasero can sound edgy or vulgar to some patients
¿Dónde le duele, en la cadera o en el glúteo Where does it hurt, in your hip or your bottom?
Don’t use: el culo  Culo = Ass


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Frecuencia Frecuency
Su frecuencia cardíaca es normal. Your heart rate is normal
Ritmo, velocidad  Speed/pace:
La velocidad del carro contribuyó a la gravedad de las heridas.  The car’s speed contributed to the severity of the injuries
Tasa (de mortalidad), índice  Ratio
La tasa de mortalidad materna en esta población es alta. The maternal mortality rate in this population is high
Tarifa, precio  Price/Fee
El precio de este procedimiento depende de su seguro  The price of this procedure depends on your insurance
Evaluar o clasificar  Evaluate/classify:
¿Cómo clasifica su dolor hoy? How would you rate your pain today?


Screen / Screening

La pantalla, el monitor  Device
La pantalla del televisor está rota.  The tv screen is broken
Examen/prueba de detección  Test
De aquí en adelante, es importante hacerle una prueba de detección cada 5 años.  From here on (this day forward) it’s important to do a screening every five years
Nos gustaría hacerle un examen de salud mental si nos permite We would like to do a mental health screening if you would allow us


Now it’s your turn! I packaged all of this vocabulary in Spanish into some flashcards for you to study.


I packaged all of this into easily downloadable .pdf notes– Get your copy for free today!

Download 4 Tricky Medical Words in Spanish Notes TODAY

And here are 5 more tricky words in Medical Spanish you’ll want to know about. Keep up the good work speaking responsible Spanish to your patients! Check out our other books, classes & products to help you learn medical Spanish!

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Rory Foster
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Rory is passionate about the Spanish language, an expert instructor, and specifically energized by the practical use of language in industry & community settings.
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