Imagine the pâté you ate at that restaurant didn’t agree with you.
Your lovely French vacation has turned into a rendez-vous between you and a porcelain bowl.
Even worse, imagine being sick in a foreign country and not having the words to explain what’s wrong.
Don’t let that be you.
This is where French medical terms come in handy! Hopefully you won’t need them—knock on wood—but you may.
Or maybe you’re a healthcare professional looking to work in a French-speaking country, and are fully expecting to use medical vocabulary on a daily basis.
We’ve got just the prescription for you, too.
In this article, we’ll cover 140 French medical terms for illnesses, body parts, emergency situations, common phrases at the doctor’s office and more.
Ready? Then step into my office.
How Will French Medical Terms Help You?
Why would French medical terminology come in handy, you ask? Besides making you a cultured, worldly individual who speaks French fluently, I can think of two main reasons, as alluded to above:
- In case of emergency while traveling: Accidents and emergencies happen, so it’s important to be prepared lest something befalls you, a friend, a family member or even a stranger when you’re in a French-speaking region.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and it totally applies here. Be prepared and hopefully an accident won’t become a total disaster! The last thing you’d want is to be at a loss for words.
- You’re a working or aspiring medical professional: If you’re a medical professional or intern in a Francophone country, your medical vocabulary must be on point so you can communicate effectively with patients and colleagues alike.
Useful Medical French Resources
- International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers: This nonprofit’s site contains a treasure trove of resources for anyone with a case of wanderlust who’d like to keep safe and informed.
- Anglo French Medical Society: The Anglo French medical society offers courses in medical French for native English speakers.
- French Emergency numbers: No, 9-1-1 isn’t an internationally recognized phone number. If you’re traveling in France, take the time to familiarize yourself with these important numbers.
- Authentic French videos on FluentU: As with any vocabulary topic, it’s easiest to learn new words in real French contexts. FluentU makes it easy by transforming authentic French videos, like news reports, TV clips, inspiring talks and more, into personalized language lessons.
Each video comes with interactive captions, flashcards and exercises so you can actively learn and retain vocabulary while you absorb native French speech. Since the videos are organized by genre and learning level, it’s easy to find ones that work for you. For example, check out this day-in-the-life of a Québécois family doctor, or this funny YouTuber’s take on visiting the doctor in France.
FluentU will even suggest new videos based on what you’ve already learned. You can explore the full video library for free with a FluentU trial.
- “English/French Medical Dictionary:” This dictionary contains a whopping 12,000 medical terms. It’s a must-have for global medical or public health professionals as well as just plain-old adventurer types.
Along with a brief grammatical rundown and a pronunciation guide, the book also includes a questionnaire arranged by medical specialty for taking a complete patient history and physical using English and French phrases.
- “English-French Medical Dictionary and Phrase Book:” This is a great text for medical professionals who are just beginning their French-learning adventure. It contains about 5,000 medical terms along with a nifty 300-data point template for a complete history and physical using English and French phrases.
140 French Medical Terms That You Should Know (But Hopefully Won’t Need)
For nouns in the list below, we’ve provided the grammatical gender (“f” for feminine, “m” for masculine) in parentheses.
What to Say When You’re Hurt or Sick
Au secours! — Help!
Aidez-moi — Help me
J’ai eu un accident — I had an accident
J’ai besoin d’une ambulance — I need an ambulance
J’ai besoin d’un médecin — I need a doctor
J’ai mal! — I’m in pain!
Je ne vais pas bien — I am not well
Où est-ce qu’on peut trouver un cabinet médical? — Where can one find a doctor’s office?
Parts of the Body
Instead of being that person gesticulating wildly through tears, you’re better off getting familiar with the names of body parts in French. Even when you’re not in pain, many of them are sure to come in handy in day-to-day conversation.
Amygdale (f) — tonsil
Bouche (f) — mouth
Bras (m) — arm
Cheville (f) — ankle
Coeur (m) — heart
Cou (m) — neck
Coude (m) — elbow
Dents (f) — teeth
Doigt (m) — finger
Dos (f) — back
Épaule (f) — shoulder
Estomac (m) — stomach
Foie (m) — liver
Front (m) — forehead
Gencive (f) — gums
Genou (m) — knee
Gorge (f) — throat
Jambe (f) — leg
Joue (f) — cheek
Narine (m) — nostril
Nez (m) — nose
Oeil (m)/Yeux (nmpl) — eye(s)
Oreille (f) — ear
Orteil (f) — toe
Paupière (f) — eyelid
Poitrine (f) — chest
Pouce (f) — thumb
Poumon (m) — lung
Région lombaire (f) — lumbar (lower back)
Rein (m) — kidney
Tête (f) — head
Ventre (m) — abdomen
Vertèbre (f) — vertebra
General Medical Terms
Aide-soignant (m) — orderly
Ambulance (f) — ambulance
Assurance (f) — insurance
Blessure (f) — injury
Bleu (m) — bruise
Cabinet médical (m) — doctor’s office
Carnet de santé (m) — medical record
Diagnostic (m) — diagnosis
Médecin (m) — doctor
Douleur (f) — pain
Effet secondaire (nm) — side effect
Fièvre (f) — fever
Glycémie (f) — blood sugar
Gonflement (m) — swelling
Hôpital (m) — hospital
Infirmier (m), Infirmière (f) — nurse
Inflammation (f) — inflammation
Maladie (f) — illness
Pharmacie (f) — pharmacy
Pouls (m) — pulse
Premiers secours (m) — first aid medical help
Pression artérielle (f) — blood pressure
Radiographie (f) — x-ray
Salive (f) — saliva
Sang (m) — blood
Santé (f) — health
Seringue (f) — syringe
Symptôme (m) — symptom
Trousse de premiers secours (f plural) — first-aid kit
Urgence (nf) — emergency
Vomi (m) — vomit
Common Doctors’ Questions and Phrases
Qu’est-ce qui ne va pas? — What’s wrong?
Qui dois-je contacter en cas d’urgence? — Who is your emergency contact?
C’est la première fois que ceci vous est arrivé? — Is this the first time this has happened to you?
Prenez un comprimé une fois par jour avant de manger — Take a pill once a day before eating
Accident vasculaire cérébral (AVC) (m) — stroke
Allergie (f) — allergy
Amygdalite (f) — tonsillitis
Angine (f) — sore throat, strep throat
Aphte (m) — canker sore
Appendicite (f) — appendicitis
Arthrite (f) — arthritis
Asthme (m) — asthma
Bronchite (f) — bronchitis
Bouton de fièvre (m) — cold sore
Commotion cérébrale (f) — concussion
Crise cardiaque (f), infarctus (m) — heart attack
Coup de soleil (m) — sunburn
Diabète sucré (m) — diabetes mellitus
Entorse (f) — sprain
Fracture (f) — fracture
Gastrite (f) — gastritis
Grippe (f) — flu
Hernie (f) — hernia
Infection urinaire (f) — urinary tract infection
Migraine (f) — migraine
Piqûre d’abeille (f) — bee sting
Pneumonie (f) — pneumonia
Rhume (m) — cold
Rougeurs (f plural) — rash
Ulcère (m) — ulcer
Anti-douleur (m) — painkiller
Béquille (f) — crutch
Comprimé (m) — tablet
Fauteuil roulant (m) — wheelchair
Medicament (m) — medication
Ordonnance (f) — prescription
Pansement (m) — bandage
Plâtre (m) — cast
Pommade (f) — ointment
Repos (m) — rest
Vaccin (m) — shot, vaccine
French Medical Verbs
These verbs will come in handy when you need to give someone, for example a first responder, the low-down on a situation.
Accoucher — to give birth
Asphyxier — to suffocate
Avaler — to swallow
Blesser — to injure
Cicatriser — to scar
Contusionner — to bruise
Élever — to lift
Hyperventiler — to hyperventilate
Saigner — to bleed
S’étouffer — to choke
S’évanouir — to faint
Gonfler — to swell
Guérir — to heal
Mâcher — to chew
Se faire une entorse à — to sprain
Vomir — to throw up
Adjectives That Describe Bodily Systems
If you find yourself surrounded by people speaking way too darn fast and you can’t pick out every word, adjectives that describe bodily systems can be useful points of reference.
Cardiovasculaire — cardiovascular
Pertains to your heart and blood vessels
Coronaire — coronary
Pertains to the arteries that surround your heart
Gastro-intestinal — gastro-intestinal
Pertains to your stomach or intestine, pancreas, liver and gallbladder
Musculaire — muscular
Pertains to muscles or tendons
Neurologique — neurological
Related to the brain, spinal cord, nerves
Pulmonaire — pulmonary
Related to the lungs
Respiratoire — respiratory
Pertains to parts of the body that help you breathe
Squelettique — skeletal
Relates to the bones, skeleton or joints
Urinaire — urinary
Related to the bladder, kidneys and other parts of the body that are tied to your body’s production of urine
Vasculaire — vascular
Related to blood vessels
Well, there you have it! To your health! Or should I say — À votre santé (To your health)!
And One More Thing…
To pick up more new vocabulary (medical and otherwise!) and learn it in context, check out FluentU!
FluentU lets you learn French from real-world content like music videos, commercials, news broadcasts, cartoons and inspiring talks.
Since this content is material that native French speakers actually watch regularly, you’ll get the opportunity to learn real French the way it’s spoken in modern life.
One quick look will give you an idea of the diverse content found on FluentU:
Love the thought of learning French with native materials but afraid you won’t understand what’s being said? FluentU brings authentic French videos within reach of any learner. Interactive captions guide you along the way, so you never miss a word.
Tap on any word to see a definition, in-context usage examples, audio pronunciation, helpful images and more. For example, if you tap on the word “suit,” then this is what appears on your screen:
Don’t stop there, though. Use FluentU to actively practice all the vocabulary in any video through word lists, flashcards, quizzes and fun activities like “fill in the blank.”
As you continue advancing in your French studies, FluentU keeps track of all the grammar and vocabulary that you’ve been learning. It uses your viewed videos and mastered language lessons to recommend more useful videos and give you a 100% personalized experience.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.