Costa Ricans use a lot of slang in their daily conversations. Being familiar with Tico sayings will help you sound like a local.Costa Rica is one of the leading destinations for people who are looking for somewhere fun and exciting to travel. There are a number of things to see and do here. If you are planning on heading here for your next vacation, here are a few Costa Rican slang terms that you’ll want to know to fit in with the locals!

SLANG TERMS IN COSTA RICA

Costa Ricans speak Spanish but the use of slang language is common among the local residents and by learning it you will have an easy and relaxing vacation. Costa Rica slang is also totally different from other Spanish speaking countries!

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Learning, understanding and speaking several words of Costa Rican Spanish generates a positive and friendly reaction from the local residents. As a foreigner, Costa Rican slang will not only enable you to communicate easily but will also help you understand what phrases Costa Ricans are saying. Below are some of the most common slang terms that are specifically used in Costa Rica though it is possible to hear some of these slang terms in other countries.

First, Ticos and Ticas are terms that the Costa Ricans use to refer to themselves with Tico representing a Costa Rican man and Tica to refer to a Costa Rican woman. Tico is a Costa Rican term for diminutive formed with the suffix ‘itico’. Interestingly, you will also find out that this slang language is very easy to learn and speak. Below are some of the common tico slang terms used by the majority of Costa Ricans and they include:

MAE

/mɑɪ/

This is another Costa Rican Spanish term that you will commonly hear in the streets or market places and it is used to refer to ‘dude’ or ‘guy.’ Mae is generally common among men but is also used occasionally to refer to women. It is however used mostly by young men, and if you pass beside a group of young men, you will rarely miss the word ‘Mae’ in their conversation.

Tico Slang Video Series

PURA VIDA

Pura Vida means pure life literally and is the mantra of every Tico. Although it has been translated to mean this is living, real living, full of life and going great as well. You might hear the phrase being used in greetings and farewells. It is often a sign that things are going good or a way to give appreciation.

In normal conversations, it can be used as:

Example

‘How are you doing?’
‘ Pura vida’

‘ I’ll serve you right away’
‘Pura vida’

As a tourist, this is probably one of the most important Costa Rica sayings that you are familiar with. It is also common to find businesses beginning with the word Pura Vida.

A CACHETE

A term said by Ticos when something is really good. To describe something like a beautiful sunset or a great wave they just caught while surfing.

Tico Slang Video Series

CHUNCHE

Chunche means thingamajig. It is often used when Ticos cannot explain or identify something. This is one of the all-purpose words you will often hear when traveling in Costa Rica.

DIAY

This is also a common term among the Ticos and is used to express confusion or doubt and can be used as ‘what happened?’ or ‘hey’ or ‘what do you mean?’. A good example of how it can be used includes:

‘Are you sure he will pay you?’
‘Diay, am not sure.’

TUANIS

This tico slang means ‘cool’ or ‘nice’ or ‘awesome.’ There are many theories connecting the origin of this slang and one of them is that it was derived from English word ‘too nice.’ A good example in a conversation includes:

Danielle is cool, she’s ‘tuanis.’

BRETE

This Costa Rica Spanish term means work and is often used to describe someone’s job or place of employment. It can also be used to describe work around the home.

It can be used as:

‘I will have taken you to the wildlife view point, but I have some brete’.

Tico Slang Brete

CHANTE

Chante means place or home. We may know it better as shanty. You will often hear someone refer to their place of residence as their chante.

 

CHOZA

Choza is a combination of chur and yoza. It is also used to describe someone’s place of residence. The terms choza and chante are often interchanged for one another.
Tico Slang Choza

MEJENGA

Soccer is a popular game among the Ticos and Mejenga is Costa Rica slang for a friendly game in the community. It is common to see Costa Rican men or youths congregated in an outdoor field or on beaches or in an indoor artificial turf playing or watching an informal soccer match or mejenga.

POR DICHA/QUE DICHA

These are Costa Rica sayings that have different meanings with Por dicha meaning ‘fortunately’ while que dicha means ‘how fortunate’. A good example in a sentence includes:

‘How is your trip?’
‘Good, por dicha.’
‘I will be taking surfing lessons later.’
‘Que dicha! Enjoy the session.’

 

GUARO

This term is used to refer to alcohol that is made from sugar cane. However, it is also used to refer to any kind of alcohol or ‘booze’ in English. There are several known Guaros or brands such as Cacique or rum which are made from sugar cane.

 

SUAVE UN TOQUE

The term ‘suave un toque’ has several meanings which include ‘easy’ or ‘hold on a second’ or ‘slow down’ or ‘relax.’

‘Let leave this place, we will be late for a rainforest tour.’
”Suave un toque’, am almost through with eating.’

TATA

This term is used to refer to ‘father’ or ‘dad’, and you will easily hear the Costa Ricans kids calling their dads out aloud, or you can even use it to introduce or talk about your own dad.

SALADO

The term is used by Costa Ricans to refer to ‘tough or bad luck.’ In a sentence example it can be referred to us:

‘Another round of beer please.’
‘Salado! Its late we are closing.’

UNA TEJA

The term is used to refer to 100-colones coins; it is equally important to understand the Costa Rican currency which is Colon, and it is a Spanish name for Columbus. Other bills include un Rojo (a red one) which represents 1,000-colones bill, and un tucan (a toucan) is a 5000-colones bill.

GUACHIMAN

This is a term that is used to refer to a ‘watch-man.’ It is common for you to come across the tico slang ‘Guachiman’ in Costa Rica and they might shout out this term to you when you get out of your rented car asking you to give them a security job (in the parking lot) in exchange for some cash. This Costa Rican Spanich term is also used in other parts of the Central American countries as well.

GOMA

It is local Tico slang that means a ‘hangover.’ This is a term that you might use if you are a beer or wine lover and you can tell your Tico friend that ‘you have a hangover’ or ‘Tengo (Una) goma.’ ‘Goma’ can also be used to refer to a gummy substance or glue.

QUÉ TORTA

The term is used to refer to ‘screw up’ or ‘what a mess’ and you can use the slang when you have done something inappropriately. Below is an example in a sentence:

‘I almost forgot to pay you for the services, Que torta.’

UPE

Upe is used to announce oneself when you come to a home for a visit. This term is used frequently when someone arrives at one’s home and wants to make their presence known.

QUÉ PEREZA

It is a term used by Ticos as a pause word for ‘what a drag’ or ‘what laziness.’ Ticos use the word when they do not wish to carry out a certain activity, or they are referring to someone else being lazy. In a sentence, it can be said as:

‘Vacation’s over, time to go, qué pereza’.

SUAVE

It means soft and is also used in conversation to tell someone ‘relax’ or ‘calm down’. A good example is:

Suave mae! I was just asking!

HARINA

It is slang for money but in real terms it means flour. If a local asks you how much Harina you are willing to pay for certain items or services, don’t get confused!

DAR PELOTA

The slang means to ‘pay attention to’ or ‘listen to’. An example in its usage is:

‘Dar pelota, I need you to watch that boat carefully’.

AL CHILE

It’s a Costa Rican term used by Ticos to say ‘really?’, this is an assurance or confirmation phrase and in a sentence it can be used as:

‘There are cheaper clothes here’
‘Al chile? I had no idea.

JAMA

A slang version for the word for comida, meaning meal or food.

 

VARA

The slang is commonly used to refer to a ‘thing’ or ‘stuff,’ but it’s also used in many other ways such as Qué es la vara? to mean ‘what’s up?’ or ‘pura vara’ (pure lies). Examples in sentences include:

‘Qué es la Vara? Why are you angry?’
‘Did hear that? Pura vara.’

HALE

This slang means to ‘pull’ or in a blunt language ‘get out!’. You can hear someone shout at you especially in a place of danger, or if you are in bad traffic, and it’s good to learn this term because it can save you a lot.

BUENA NOTA / BUENA GENTE

Buena nota or Buena gente is a slang that means a cool or nice person. It is often used by Costa Ricans to refer to nice people and in a sentence it can be used as:

Carlos is Buena nota, you can trust him.

Costa Rica Slang Video Series

THE ABOVE COSTA RICAN PHRASES OR “TICO SLANG” ARE WIDELY USED THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY AND IS GOOD TO KNOW FOR ANYONE WHO WISHES TO TAKE A VACATION IN COSTA RICA! PURA VIDA!