Costa Rican Slang You Need to Know Before Your Trip

Costa Rican Slang You Need to Know Before Your Trip

Costa Ricans speak Spanish, but as is the case with most of the world, they have their own way of speaking. Just as an elevator to Americans is a lift to the British, Costa Ricans have their own way with Spanish words that is unique to them. After living there for over a year, I began to realize that many of the phrases I was learning and using with my friends were not the same in other Spanish-speaking parts of the world, so I thought it would be fun to put together the most commonly used Costa Rican slang words that are specific to Costa Rica.

Pura Vida

If there is only one Costa Rican slang phrase you take away from the post, let it be Pura Vida. While this literally translates to “pure life” , in Costa Rica it takes on a meaning of its own. Pura Vida can be a greeting, farewell, an answer to ¿Cómo estás? (how are you?), but also the question (¿qué, pura vida?); it can be an exciting exclamation, a way to say thank you as well as you’re welcome, and honestly a million things more. Pura Vida is literally the essence of Costa Rica, and as you will see, as you begin to learn the lingo, you will also gain insight into the lives and culture of the Costa Rican people.

Costa Ricans, also known as Ticos, at an art festival in downtown San Jose

Costa Ricans, also known as Ticos, at an art festival in downtown San Jose

Costa Rica Slang

  • Tico – a Costa Rican, los Ticos are called this because they make a lot of words cutesy by adding -ito or -tico to the end of them, so look out for when they ask if you want un poquitico de cafecito con el almurecito (a little coffee with lunch). In fact, they refer to Costa Rica as Tiquicia

  • La Finca- recently a famous Costa Rican referred to the country condescendingly as “la finca,” alluding to the agricultural history. In true Tico spirit, Costa Ricans fought back by lovingly referring to the country as La Finca, and now it has caught on as another way to refer to Costa Rica.

  • Soda – This is a Costa Rican equivilent to an American “diner,” it is a small, family owned restaurant serving typical local foods, usually with only a few chairs, and always with a “chilero,” a homemade concoction of pickled vegetables and peppers that is a delicious spicey addition to a plate of rice and beans.

  • Casado – literally married, this is the name of the classic Costa Rican dinner, consisting of rice, beans, protein, salad, and sweet platains, called maduros here. It is often accompanied by a freshly made fruit juice.

  • Pulperia – This is a corner store, often referred to as a bodega in other Spanish-speaking countries

Check out out photo journal for beautiful pictures of Costa Rican Wildlife

More Fun Slang

  • En Todas – when someone says “en todas” they mean great; it is a positive response to how are you

  • A Cachete – this phrase literally means ‘to the cheek’ but used as a way of saying cool

  • Tuanis – chill, good, used similarly to Pura Vida

  • Diay – Costa Rican word for pues, used as a filler word like well, so, or ummm, but can also mean things like wtf, wow, etc. It changes depending on the tone and intonation

  • Mae – dude, bro, etc; not gender specific but is more casual and therefore only used among peers

  • Tranquilo/a- can be a verb or an adjective meaning don’t worry, calm down, chill (ending changes based on gender)

  • Guila – girl, hottie, pronounced wila

  • Cabra – literally goat, but a slang word to refer to your girlfriend, a little antiquated

  • Titi – another way to say ‘this,’ not to be confused with Tita which is another way to call your grandmother

Pata Caliente is a way to refer to someone who is always traveling

Pata Caliente is a way to refer to someone who is always traveling

  • Pata Caliente – while it literally means hot foot, this slang refers to someone who moves or travels a lot, a beloved word by the travel community

  • Mier – short for mi hermano (my brother), sometimes pronounced like mi’ersh

  • Camote – literally a type of sweet potato native to this region (not the orange kind westerners are used to), in slang camote can mean the same as the Spanish ‘raro’, meaning weird, especially when referring to a person

  • Qué Guava – while guava is literally a type of fruit, qué guava is used to mean what good luck or to describe something very lucky

  • Qué Chiva – cool, neat, awesome, very similar to the Mexican use of qué padre or chido

  • El Chunche – the thingy

  • Al Chile – no kidding, for real, seriously

  • Suave Un Toque – wait a moment

  • Dele Viaje – normally would be something like hágalo in standard Spanish, which means just do it!

  • Torta/Qué Torta – when something bad happens, you might say “Qué Torta” to mean oh no, what are we going to do, that sucks

  • Tortero – a word to describe someone who is clumsy, or possibly someone who gets into trouble frequently

  • Machita- macho/macha is literally a masculine adjective, but in Costa Rica it refers to the lighter-haired. A blonde will frequently be referred to as machito/machita, and it is a term of endearment.

  • Hablar Paja – literally to talk straw, this means to shoot the breeze, to talk about nothing, or chit chat

  • Andar de Goma – to have a hangover

  • La Choza – slang for home/house, which is usually casa

  • Los Cachos – shoes (usually called zapatos)

What else would you add to this list of slang words in Costa Rica? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Until next time!

xoxo, The Adventures Abound

Costa Rican Spanish | Adventures Abound

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