Reading a Spanish translation of "Three Men in a Boat" I've found that

"... the only malady I could conclude I had not got was housemaid’s knee."

was translated as

y la única enfermedad que, según el Diccionario, no padecía, era “la rodilla de beata”.

However, none of the meanings of beata in the DRAE seem to refer to a housemaid:

  1. adj. Feliz o bienaventurado.

  2. adj. Dicho de una persona: Beatificada por el papa. U. m. c. s.

  3. m. y f. Persona muy devota que frecuenta mucho los templos. U. t. c. adj.

  4. m. y f. Persona que lleva hábito religioso sin vivir en comunidad ni seguir regla determinada.

  5. m. Códice miniado, de los siglos VIII al XIII, que recoge los comentarios que el Beato de Liébana escribió sobre el Apocalipsis.

  6. f. Mujer que vive con otras en clausura o sin ella bajo cierta regla.

  7. f. Mujer que con hábito religioso se emplea en pedir limosna o en otro tipo de menesteres en nombre de la comunidad a la que está agregada.

  8. f. coloq. peseta (‖ unidad monetaria).

so I'm a little confused ...

  • 4
    Bear in mind that you are not trying to translate "housemaid", but a malady named "housemaid's knee". You have to translate the complete expression, and not word by word. In English you say "housemaid" because you suppose they are always cleaning the floor by standing on their knees. We say "beata" because they are always praying on their knees, as @celemo says in his answer. Both of them are inclined to injure their knees for different reasons.
    – Charlie
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 15:42
  • 2
    Apparently according to English Wikipedia we do say clergyman's knee in English although I have never heard it myself.
    – mdewey
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 16:23
  • "Housemaid knee" and "Rodilla de beata" are the names in English and Spanish for Bursitis on the knee.
    – roetnig
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 14:19

1 Answer 1


It is referring to a particular condition, where the knees are damaged. In Mexico (and Latam, I assume) the beatas stay too much time on her knees, at church or at house, while praying.

The condition is Prepatellar Bursitis. I have searched and the term housemaid's knee is accurate.

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