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Body Parts

Spanish for Beginners

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tocar el arpa

Los dedos tocan el arpa. (Fingers play the harp.)

Adapted from photo by Daniela Vladimirova; licensed via Creative Commons.

When you were a young child, it's possible that among the first words taught to you (as opposed to the words you picked up naturally) were the names of the parts of your body. Those words aren't likely the first words you'll need to learn in Spanish, but they're often indispensable.

Names of body parts are used much the same in Spanish as in English — but with one significant difference. In Spanish, names of parts of the body are frequently preceded by the definite article (el, la, los or las, meaning "the") instead of possessive adjectives (such as mi for "my" and tu for "your"). In most cases, the possessive adjective is used only where the context doesn't make clear whose body is being referred to.

  • Examples: ¡Abre los ojos! (Open your eyes!) ¡Cierre la boca! (Shut your mouth!) Él bajó la cabeza para orar. (He bowed his head to pray.)

The possessive adjective is used when needed to avoid ambiguity.

  • Examples: Me gustan tus ojos. (I like your eyes.) Acerqué mi mano a su cabeza. (I moved my hand close to his head.)

Although English often omits the definite article when referring to body parts, they are usually retained in Spanish (when a possessive adjective isn't used).

  • Examples: Tengo el pelo negro. (I have black hair.) Prefiero los ojos verdes. (I prefer green eyes.)

Here are the Spanish words for common body parts:

arm — el brazo
back — la espalda
backbone — la columna vertebral
brain — el cerebro, el seso
breast, chest — el pecho
buttocks — las nalgas
calf — la pantorrilla
ear — el oído, la oreja
elbow — el codo
eye — el ojo
finger — el dedo (See Note 1)
foot — el pie
hair — el pelo
hand — la mano (See Note 2)
head — la cabeza
heart — el corazón
hip — la cadera
intestine — el intestino
knee — la rodilla
leg — la pierna
liver — el hígado
mouth — la boca
muscle — el músculo
neck — el cuello (See Note 3)
nose — la nariz (See Note 3)
shoulder — el hombro
skin — la piel
stomach (abdomen) — el vientre
stomach (internal organ) — el estómago
thigh — el muslo
throat — la garganta
toe — el dedo (See Note 1)
tongue — la lengua
tooth — el diente, la muela

Notes:

1. El dedo can refer to either a finger or a toe. If necessary to distinguish, you can use el dedo de la mano or el dedo del pie, respectively.

2. Mano is one of the very few Spanish nouns ending in -o that is feminine.

3. Some of these terms are used for humans but not for other animals (or not as frequently). For example, el hocico and el pescuezo are often used to refer to the nose and neck of animals, respectively.

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