Talking about coronavirus in Spanish

The COVID-19 pandemic is the talk of the world right now. Learn the important vocabulary to speak to your Spanish speaking friends and understand Spanish language news coverage of the ongoing crisis.

Mar 22, 2020
  • Lesson
  • Podcast


Over the past few weeks, we have found ourselves in the middle of a terrible situation that is threatening both the health and economic stability of the entire world, all due to a new coronavirus, known as COVID-19. This issue has taken over not only the news media, but also our daily conversations, including those in our Spanish classes.

Because of this, we have decided to create a list of vocabulary to help you speak competently with native Spanish speakers about this extremely important topic, whether you're currently living in a Spanish-speaking country, communicating with loved ones in Spanish about the crisis, or just talking about the topic with your Spanish teacher.

Basic terminology

  • El virus: virus
    • Coronavirus gets its name from the word corona, which means "crown" in Spanish, due to its appearance under a microscope.
  • OMS (Organización Mundial de la Salud): WHO (World Health Organization)
    • When speaking about these organizations in Spanish, we tend to use the full name rather than the acronym.
  • La pandemia: pandemic
  • El brote: outbreak
  • Contagiar: to infect, to transmit
  • El contagio: infection
  • Propagar: to spread
  • La población con mayor riesgo: high-risk population
    • In the case of coronavirus, the elderly and those with preexisting conditions.
  • Las medidas sanitarias: health measures
  • El sistema de salud: health system
  • Período de incubación: incubation period
  • Hacerse un examen: to get tested
  • Las vías de transmisión: transmission routes
  • Dar positivo / negativo: to test positive / negative

Let's see some examples of how these words are used:

  • La Organización Mundial de la Salud ha clasificado al Coronavirus Covid-19 como una pandemia debido a que se ha propagado rápidamente alrededor del mundo y recomienda tomar las medidas necesarias para evitar el contagio.
    The WHO has classified the coronavirus Covid-19 as a pandemic due to its rapid spread across the entire world and recommends taking the necessary measures to avoid infection.
  • En América Latina han aparecido los primeros brotes del virus.
    In Latin America the first outbreaks of the virus have appeared.
  • La población con mayor riesgo son las personas de la tercera edad.
    The most at-risk population is the elderly.
  • Las vías de transmisión son por contacto con las partículas que libera una persona cuando tose o estornuda.
    The transmission routes are respiratory droplets produced from coughing or sneezing.
  • Si tienes sospechas de que tienes el virus, debes hacerte un examen médico.
    If you suspect that you have the virus, you should get tested.


  • Los síntomas: symptoms
    • Note that this word, like most that end in -ma, is masculine.
  • Presentar o tener síntomas: to have or show symptoms
  • El resfriado común: common cold
  • La gripe / gripa: flu / influenza
  • La afección respiratoria: respiratory condition
  • La fiebre: fever
  • El cansancio: fatigue
  • La tos seca: dry cough
  • La congestión nasal: nasal congestion
  • Los mocos (científicamente "rinorrea"): runny nose
  • El dolor de garganta: sore throat
  • La diarrea: diarrhea
  • La dificultad para respirar: shortness of breath / difficulty breathing
  • Toser: to cough
  • Estornudar: to sneeze

Here are some examples:

  • Muchos casos de infección por Coronavirus no presentan síntomas.
    Many cases of coronavirus infection do not show symptoms.
  • Ella tiene fiebre alta, cansancio y tos seca.
    She has a high fever, fatigue and dry cough.
  • No todos los pacientes desarrollan una afección respiratoria grave.
    Not all patients develop a severe respiratory condition.
  • Es necesario ir al doctor si tienes dificultad para respirar.
    It is necessary to go to the doctor if you have difficulty breathing.

Items for treatment and prevention

  • El jabón: soap
  • Gel desinfectante / antibacterial (de manos): hand sanitizer
  • La mascarilla / el tapabocas: face mask
  • Los guantes: gloves
  • La vacuna: vaccine
  • Los medicamentos: medications
  • El tratamiento: treatment

Some examples:

  • Es importante lavarse las manos con jabón y agua frecuentemente o usar gel desinfectante.
    It's important to wash your hands with soap and water frequently or use hand sanitizer.
  • Recomiendan el uso del tapabocas a las personas infectadas.
    It is recommended for infected people to wear a face mask.
  • Aún no existe una vacuna contra el Covid-19.
    There is still no vaccine against Covid-19.

Recommendations and preventative measures

  • Lavarse las manos: to wash your hands
  • Quedarse en casa: to stay home
  • Taparse / cubrirse la cara con el brazo cuando toses o estornudas: to cover your face with your arm when you cough or sneeze
  • No tocarse la cara: to not touch your face
  • Mantener distancia social: to keep social distance
  • La cuarentena: quarantine

And some examples:

  • Tenemos que lavarnos las manos muy bien.
    We have to wash our hands well.
  • Es mejor quedarse en casa y no salir hasta que termine esta crisis.
    It is best to stay at home and not go out until this crisis ends.
  • No te tapes la cara con la mano, sino con el brazo.
    Don't cover your face with your hand, rather with your arm.
  • Es difícil para mí no tocarme la cara porque siempre me pica.
    It's hard for me not to touch my face because it always itches.
  • Es recomendable mantener la distancia social para no contagiar a nadie o ser contagiados.
    It is best to keep social distance to not infect anyone or become infected.

If you're stuck at home in self-isolation or quarantine, why not take the opportunity to do something productive and work on improving your Spanish? You can check out our podcast for this week's post, where Michael and Merly have an informal conversation about the COVID-19 pandemic, or take a look at the rest of our posts, with more lessons, exercises and podcasts!

Want to really take your Spanish to the next level? Our teachers also offer private classes online, so if you're interested, be sure to take a look!

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