Cute Anatomy in English

By Gloria M. Rivera

“Spanish interpreters use so many fancy words,” a provider told me when I interpreted “collar bone” as “clavícula” (clavicle). “Oh, it is because most medical terminology comes from Greek and Latin, just like Spanish does,” I replied with a big smile on my face. 

Spanish speakers are not alone in this elegance. Speakers of Romance languages, such as Italian, Portuguese, French, Romanian, or Catalan, share this trait as they evolved from Vulgar Latin.  

On the other hand, English speakers use more cute, descriptive terms like “voice box” or “thigh bone” to talk about body parts. In fact, even providers use these “cute anatomical terms” to communicate not only with their patients, but with each other.

Here is a list of cute anatomical terms and their more formal equivalents in English and Spanish translation.

“Spanish interpreters use so many fancy words,” a provider told me when I interpreted “collar bone” as “clavícula” (clavicle).

Key: [layman term in English]: [technical word in English] 
         ([layman term in Spanish], [technical term in Spanish], [“slang or lower register term”])
          bold: most used layman term, if I found 2 or more terms used

  • ear bones (huesecillos del oído)
    • hammer: malleus (martillo)
    • anvil: incus (yunque)
    • stirrup: stapes (estribo)
  • eardrum: tympanum, tympanic membrane (tímpano)
  • skull: cranium (cráneo)
  • eye socket: eye orbit (órbita del ojo)
  • roof of the mouth: palate (paladar)
  • cheekbone, malar bone: zygomatic bone (hueso cigomático o malar)
  • upper jaw bone, maxillary bone: maxilla (maxilar superior)
  • lower jaw bone, jawbone: mandible (maxilar inferior, mandíbula, “quijada”)
  • collarbone: clavicle (clavícula)
  • blade bone, wing bone, shoulder bone, shoulder blade: scapula (escápula, omóplato, “paleta”)
  • rib cage: thoracic cage (caja torácica)
  • breastbone: sternum (esternón)
  • upper arm bone, large arm bone, arm bone: humerus (húmero)
  • lower arm bones, forearm bones: ulna and radius – huesos del antebrazo (cúbito y radio)
  • funny bone, crazy bone: ulnar nerve (hueso de la risa o hueso de la alegría)
    *yes, it is a nerve!
  • backbone, spine: spinal column, vertebral column (columna vertebral, “espina dorsal”)
  • sacral bone: sacrum (formed by 5 fused vertebrae) (hueso sacro, sacro)
  • tailbone, coccygeal bone: coccyx (cóccix, coxis, “rabadilla”)
  • hip bone, pelvic bone, innominate bone, os coxae:  coxal bone. Formed by 3 bones (ilium, ischium, and pubis) that are fused into one bone. (hueso coxal, hueso ilíaco. Formado por 3 huesos, ilion, isquion y pubis, que están fusionados en uno)
  • iliac bone: ilium (ilio)
  • pubic bone: pubis (pubis)
  • leg bone: any of the legs bones (femur, patella tibia, fibula) – fémur, rótula, tibia o peroné)
  • thigh bone, thighbone, upper leg bone: femur (fémur)
  • kneecap, kneepad: patella (rótula, “hueso de la rodilla”)
  • shin bone, shinbone: tibia (tibia)
  • calf bone: fibula (peroné)
  • heel bone, heelbone: calcaneus, calcaneum (calcáneo)
  • ankle bone, anklebone, astragalus: talus (astrágalo)
  • roof of the mouth: palate (paladar)
  • throat: pharynx (faringe, garganta)
  • voice box: larynx (laringe)
  • windpipe: trachea (tráquea)
  • air sac: alveolus (alveolo)
  • food pipe: esophagus (esófago)
  • back of the neck: nape (nuca)
  • arm pit: axilla (axila, “sobaco”)
  • belly button: navel (ombligo)
  • maidenhead: hymen
    [very old term, but I thought it was interesting!]
  • foreskin: prepuce (prepucio)
  • ball sack**, “nut sack”***: scrotum (escroto)
    **Used mostly in an informal setting. Do NOT use during a medical interpreting session, unless the medical provider uses it first.
    ***Slang term for scrotum. Can be perceived as offensive.

I should add that this list is not perfect nor finished. These are all the terms I have collected while living and working in the US. I may have read them in medical articles or patient oriented documents, heard them on a TV show, movie, or while interpreting, or “discovered them” while researching for a class in different resources. 

If you have any additions or suggestions, feel free to contact me so I can add it to the list. 




  1. Merriam Webster Dictionary:
  2. Cambridge Dictionary:
  3. Diccionario de la lengua española de la Real Academia Española de la Lengua:
  4. Diccionario de Términos Médicos de la Real Academia Nacional de Medicina:
  5. Cosnautas, Diccionario de dudas y dificultades de traducción del inglés médico:
  6. NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms:
  7. National Cancer Institute:
  8. Britannica Encyclopedia:
  9. Healthline:
  10. Medicine Net:
  11. Cedars Sinai Health Library:
  12. Cleveland Clinic Health Library: