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In English, when talking about common viruses people often get, there are generally two categories:

  • a cold is generally more mild and can come with runny nose, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, etc.
  • a flu is generally more severe and can bring fever, chills, fatigue, etc.

In my experience with Spanish, almost all of this tends to be wrapped up in one word: gripe. What are the official and informal ways of referring to these diseases? What words exist in Spanish and what varieties of illness do they refer to? What regional variation exists?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

At least in Mexico which is where I come from:

As you say gripe or gripa are used to refer to both the common cold and the flu. This is the colloquial way of saying it.

It would be more correct to refer to the common cold as

resfriado / catarro

and to the flu as

gripe / gripa / influenza

but it is not that common, like I said, where I come from.

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In Spain, to have a cold is "tener catarro" or "estar constipado" (not to be confused with "constipated", which in Spain is "estreñido"), "resfriado" is more "formal". Flu is just "gripe", not gripa nor influenza. So, in Spain we make the difference between cold and flu. – JoulSauron Jul 3 '12 at 20:14
@JoulSauron: Right! I forgot about "catarro", I'll update the answer to reflect that. Thank you. – Sergio Romero Jul 3 '12 at 20:38

Here in Chile, we say:

  • Resfrío (common) or Resfriado (less common): cold

  • Gripe (common) or Influenza (less common, because gripe and influenza are actually different): flu

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Well... I'm from Mexico but where I come frome we just say "gripa" for cold and "gripa" for flu [haha] but we say that it was a very bad "gripa" or "gripa de perro" (dog's flu) very commonly used. There are other words but those are used in the TV or other countries.

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In Dominican Republic, we differentiate between having a cold (tener catarro) and the flu (gripe). Influenza is use more in reference to a pandemic type of flu.

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