Costa Rican slang words for money

Posted on Apr 30, 2017 in Costa Rica Surf Trips



One of the most common themes of slang words in all cultures is money. When you’re among friends, which seems more natural: “Please loan me five dollar bills,” or “Can you give me five bucks,”?

This isn’t an English-centric concept. In all languages, people use slang to refer to money; sometimes to make situations less awkward, or in many instances to escape cultural taboos when it comes to money talks.

One interesting example of this is the word harina, which in Spanish means flour. Imagine that you had spent several years throughout your school career taking Spanish classes. You always got good grades, and had a pretty firm grasp of the language. I bet you would be pretty surprised if you went to Costa Rica and someone asked you for some harina. I can picture it now; “I’m not a baker!” you would probably say, as the locals laugh at you. While harina does directly translate to flour, it holds a closer relationship to a different English word – dough. When you walk into a marketplace, and someone asks you how much harina you will pay for something, don’t get confused – they’re asking how much money you want to spend!

The currency in Costa Rica is formally known as the colon and comes in several bill sizes, with the smallest bill size being ₡1,000 (about $2). Informally, the ₡1,000 note is called a rojo. If you have any practice with Spanish, you can probably guess what color the 1000 note is. Red. Costa Rica, like almost all countries other than the US, use different colors to demarcate different currency notes. Rather than saying “do you have any 1000 colon bills?”, you might just ask “Got any rojos?”. If you want to sound like a tico (native) next time you’re in Costa Rica, just tell your taxi driver “yo tengo harina”, and he’ll know you’ve got the rojos.

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