The Best Costa Rican Expressions, Phrases & Slang To Know

April 8, 2016

Are you heading down to Costa Rica for a vacation, semester abroad, or maybe even for the whole winter until it warms up back home? You’re guaranteed to have a marvelous time, as Costa Rica is truly one of the most beautiful countries on earth with plenty of sun, sand, mountains, flora and fauna for the most discerning traveler. But there is one thing that can enhance your time in the land of pura vida (we’ll cover that later) – knowing the language. In fact, only a basic understanding or a few words of Spanish is just fine, and many of the locals and people who work in tourism speak some English. But I’m talking about learning some real, authentic Tico (Costa Rican) sayings. Dropping a few of these charming (and sometimes hilarious) phrases, sayings, and slang will quickly endear you to the locals and open up a whole new amazing experience.

The Best Costa Rican Expressions, Phrases & Slang

Here are our top Costa Rican sayings:

Mae

Mae usually is used like “dude” between friends in the U.S., a word you’ll hear peppered in young peoples’ speech.

Pura vida

Pura vida means “pure life,” a national philosophy that embraces chilling, good vibes, and sunny dispositions.

Tico / Tica

Costa Rican citizens are called Ticos because of their affinity for adding –ico on the end of some words. Women are called Ticas.

Estar de goma

I am hungover or I have a hangover

Tuanis

A surfer slang expression that roughly means “cool,” it’s a Spanish adaptation from the phrase “too nice.”

Aguevado

Bored or boring

Brete

Work or job

Chunche

Little thing or similar to the English saying “Thingamajig.”

La vara

Another way of saying “the thing.”

Como amaneció?

How’s it going with you this morning?

Dolor de jupa

A headache

Estar de chicha

To be angry

Macha

Usually a foreigner that is a blond female.

Mucho gusto

This literally translates to “[with] much pleasure,” but Costa Ricans use it to express gratitude at meeting someone, to say you’re welcome, or goodbye.

No joda!/no jodás!

A strong saying that means don’t bother me or leave me alone.

Ojo!

Watch out!

Pinche (peen-chay)

Pinches mean something totally different in Mexican Spanish, but means “stingy” in Costa Rica.

Por dicha

Thank goodness.

Pulperia

One of the small corner stores that are in every big city and small village in the country.

Pura paja

Bullshit or crap.

Que m’iche?

What’s up, or what do you have to tell me?

que mala nota!

What a bad person!

que pereza!

What a downer or drag!

salado

So unlucky or too bad.

soda (soh-dah)

The small, usually family-run typical eateries in Costa Rica, sort of like a local lunch counter or diner.

soque!

Hurry up!

una teja

Una teja refers to 100 of anything, but usually denotes 100 Colones, or 100 meters if someone is giving you directions.

Un rojo

Thousand Colon note.

Un Tiguron

Two thousand Colon note.

Un Tigre

Five thousand Colon note.

Si Dios quiere

Only if it’s God’s will.

Qué tiene?

What’s the matter?

Qué torta

What a problem.

Me cayo la pelota

I finally get it or understand.

Achará

What a pity!

Irsele la onda

To forget.

Vieras

If you only knew!

Jale

Let’s go!

Andar de tanda

Bar hopping or crawling.

Piropos

Compliments (cat calls)

Chisme

Gossip or rumors.

Chusma

Riff-raff.

Lancear

To seduce.

Batear

To make wild guesses.

Llegar a la hora del burro

To arrive late.

Chiva

Cool.

Concho

Rough.

Cada muerte de Obispo

Once in a blue moon.

Meter una yucca

Telling a lie

Polo

Corny.

Minche

Fistfight.

¡Cierre el pico!

Shut up!

Choque ese hueso

Shaking hands

No entender ni papa.

I don’t understand anything.

Choza

House or home.

No es vara

It’s not a lie.

Diay

Hey!

Pasar la brocha

Having an ulterior motive.

Por si las moscas

Just in case.

¡Que tirada!

What a mess!

Estar en la luna

To daydream.

Va jalando

Get lost.

Grosero

Rude.

Güila

Kid or girl.

Carajillo

Brat.

Tirito

Just a moment.

Hablar paja

Talking nonsense.

***

 Costa Rican Expressions, Phrases & Slang

WhatsApp WhatsApp us