Want to know how to describe body parts in Spanish?
Body parts are one of the first things taught to toddlers who are speaking for the first time. Yet many learners overlook memorizing more than their “head, shoulders, knees, and toes”. And then get stuck mid-conversation when the topic turns to bodies.
We’ve all got a body, so it’s an important topic to be able to talk about. I’d like to show you the most important words to learn.
Besides knowing the parts of the body in Spanish, there are Spanish expressions that go along with them. In English, we say “My head hurts” to express a headache, or “use your head” to tell someone to think. I’ll be covering these Spanish expressions, too.
Time to get learning!
Body Parts in Spanish
First, let’s learn the different body parts in Spanish. I’ve broken these down into general areas of the body, and included some tips on how you can remember them easily.
“Head” in Spanish
Your head in Spanish is la cabeza.
Maybe you need to usa tu cabeza, or “use your head” and think deeper about something. If you have a headache, then tu tenga dolor de cabeza (“You have a headache” – say it in first person by changing tenga to tengo for “I have”). Along those lines, if you’re under the weather, you may “have a fever and cough” – tener fiebre y tos.
And don’t forget your face, la cara!
Besides la cabeza and la cara, here are the other body parts on your head and face that you should know:
- Eye: el ojo
- Eyelid: el párpado
- Eyelashes: las pestañas
- Eyebrows: las cejas
- Ear: el oido (inside the ear); la oreja (outer ear; the part you see)
- Nose: la nariz
- Mouth: la boca
- Jaw: la mandíbula
- Lips: los labios
- Teeth: los dientes
- Tongue: la lengua
- Throat: la garganta
- Forehead: la frente
- Cheek: la mejilla
- Beard: la barba
- Moustache: el mostacho
- Chin: la barbilla
- Freckles: las pecas
- Hair: el pelo
- Neck: el cuello
- Brain: el cerebro
- Skull: el cráneo
Want to make sure these stick in your mind?
One of my favourite ways to memorise words in other languages is through mnemonics. This is a simple way to hack your memory so you’ll rarely forget new words.
Let me show you can example. Cabeza (“head”) is similar to the Spanish word for cerveza (“beer”). So my little mnemonic phrase is “Cerveza goes straight to my cabeza.” It’s also a bonus that both cerveza and cabeza are both the same gender, meaning they both use “la”.
Here’s are a few more to help you get the idea:
- Teeth are los dientes, which reminds me of “dentures” so I imagine fake teeth sitting in a glass next to the bed.
- Hair is pelo and comes from the same Latin origin as “pile” in English. I picture getting my hair cut, and the pile of pelo on the floor after.
- Máscara in Spanish means “mask”, but mascara in English is makeup you put on your face, la cara.
- If you’re an X-Men fan, then you know Professor X uses Cerebro to harness his brain power to connect with others all over the world.
You can use these for yourself if you like, but you’ll find it much more effective if you create your own images. Try to get creative and visual with your associations, and even try building a memory palace.
“Body” in Spanish
Your whole body in Spanish is call el cuerpo. But let’s talk about your upper body (el torso), such as your chest and back. “Chest” is el pecho, while “back” in Spanish is la espalda.
When at the doctor, they’ll listen to your lungs through your pecho and espalda and ask you to “respirar”, or breathe.
What about when you have an itch you can’t reach on your back? It’s the worst! Be prepared and ask: ¿Me rascarás la espalda por favor? (“Will you scratch my back, please?”)
Here are other words for el torso, plus other words for todo el cuerpo in Spanish:
- Heart: el corazón
- Lungs: los pulmones
- Muscle: el músculo
- Skin: la piel
- Waist: la cintura
- Stomach: el estómago
- Abs: los abdominales
- Navel: el ombligo
- Shoulder: el hombro
- Breast: la pechuga or el seno
- Organs: los órganos
- Intestines: los intestinos
- Kidneys: los riñones
- Liver: el hígado
- Bone: el hueso
- Ribs: las costillas
- Skeleton: el esqueleto
- Spine: la espina
- Blood: la sangre
Some of the words above sound close enough to their English meaning to be easy to remember, like estómago, intestino, and espina. Others are like words related to the English meaning. Take a look at “lungs” in Spanish: pulmones. That sounds like “pulmonary”, which is always related to lung issues in medicine. Same with “navel”, which is ombligo – reminiscent of “umbilical”, the cord cut at the navel when you’re born.
Others you can get creative with. Waist is easy because cintura sounds like “cinch”. Belts – cinturón in Spanish – cinch your pants up, or think of a corset for women which cinches the cintura. And blood, sangre looks like sangria, the deep red Spanish wine. In fact, sangría means “bleeding” in Spanish, and sangria is called vino sangría – bleeding wine. Maybe not the most appealing image, but it’s a good one to help you remember the correct word.
Again, these are just examples, and you’ll find it even more effective if you come up with your images and associations.
“Arm” in Spanish
“Arm” in Spanish is el brazo.
With your brazo you can dar un abrazo, or “give a hug”. The verb “to hug” – abrazar – is very close to “arm” which makes it easy to remember.
If you work out, maybe you want to flexiona tus músculos (“flex your muscles”). But what if you broke your arm? Then say, Me rompi un hueso (“I broke a bone”) or Me rompi un brazo (“I broke an arm”). Then you might need la radiografía – an x-ray.
Let’s learn the words related to your arm, right down down to the fingertips:
- Elbow: el codo
- Forearm: el antebrazo
- Wrist: la muñeca
- Hand: el mano
- Palm: la palma
- Finger: el dedo
- Thumb: el pulgar
- Knuckle: el nudillo
- Fingertips: puntas de los dedos
- Fingernails: las uñas
So what memory hacks can we use for these? The word for fingers – dedo – reminds me of when my hand falls dead asleep and my fingers tingle. So I remember, “My fingers are dedo asleep.” Mano for “hand” makes me think of “manual”. To do something manually means to do it by hand. So you get mano!
“Leg” in Spanish
Leg in Spanish is la pierna. In English, we have the saying “Break a leg!” to wish someone good luck. But in Spanish, you wouldn’t say “¡Romper una pierna!”… Instead, it’s more natural to use a bit ruder phrase – ¡Mucha mierda! or “A lot of crap!”
Besides breaking a leg… what about twisting an ankle? That would be torcer un tobillo. The doctor might tell you to put your feet up (levantas tus pies) or use las muletas – crutches.
Now let’s work our way down through the lower body:
- Hip: la cadera
- Butt: la culata or las nalgas (“buttocks”)
- Thigh: el muslo
- Knee: la rodilla
- Calf: la pantorrilla
- Ankle: el tobillo
- Foot: el pie
- Heel: el talón
- Toe: el dedo del pie
When trying to remember these words, I like to start with pie. I think about stepping in pie with my foot – what a waste of perfectly delicious pie! But if I was to eat too much pie, it would go straight to my los muslos – my thighs, and I’d lose my muscles I’ve worked to strengthen by running! I don’t want that, so I make sure to run my culata off and cool down with a lotta water after.
See how I worked several words into one mental image? It can be helpful (and fun!) to think of silly ideas and string together related words to help remember them.
“Human” in Spanish, and the Systems of the Body
Human in Spanish is humano, so that makes it simple to learn!
And in the cuerpo humano (“human body”) there are many systems that work together to keep us going. You may not use these much unless you go to the doctor’s, but they’re interesting to know. Here’s your biology refresher, in Spanish:
- Circulatory system: sistema circulatorio
- Digestive system: sistema digestivo
- Muscular system: sistema muscular
- Endocrine system: sistema endocrino
- Nervous system: sistema nervioso
- Skeletal system: sistema esquelético
- Respiratory system: sistema respiratorio
- Reproductive system: sistema reproductivo
- Excretory system: sistema excretor
- Lymphatic system: sistema linfático
- Exocrine system: sistema exocrino
Phrases and Idioms with Body Parts in Spanish
Like English, there are plenty of phrases and idioms that include body parts. Actors are told to “break a leg”. Politicians “washing their hands” of a situation.
Spanish is no different. Here are a few Spanish phrases and idioms that include body parts to get you started. If the phrase is an idiom, I included the literal translation so you can see how they’re different!
- Get it off your chest: Sal de tu pecho
- Sleep like a log: Dormir a pierna suelta (Literally: “Sleep with a loose leg”)
- Brush your teeth: Cepilla tus dientes
- Make your mouth water: Hacerse la boca agua
- Fed up: Estar hasta las narices (Literally: “Up to the noses”)
- Wash your hands: Lava tus manos
- Close your eyes and make a wish: Cierra tus ojos y pide un deseo
- Be the centre of attention: Ser el ombligo del mundo (Literally: “Be the navel of the world”)
- Lend someone a hand: Echar una mano a alguien
- To have no filter; to always speak your mind: No tener pelos en la lengua (Literally: “Not having hairs on your tongue”)
La Cabeza, Los Hombros, Las Rodillas, y Los Dedos del Pie
Now you know the whole body, inside and out, in Spanish. Besides knowing how to talk about your body now, you can even impress others with a few Spanish idioms that include body parts. Good work!
I’d love to hear what language hacks you use to help you memorise body parts in Spanish.