Costa Rica is a very small fascinating country. Ticos take pride in the fact that they are different and unique. That is reflected in the language and daily expressions and slangs used by them. They make this amazing paradise even more fascinating.
We are happy to share with you, 25 of our favorite local expressions. You can learn even more about these expressions by embarking on our Culture Tour of Costa Rica with us at Costour.
Dropping a few of these charming and sometimes hilarious and colorful phrases, sayings, and slang will quickly endear you to the locals and open a whole new amazing personal experience.
- Pura vida | “Pure life”: this quintessential Costa Rican phrase tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the Tico approach to life. It has many meanings, all friendly: “great” or “fantastic,” “hello,” “nice to meet you,” “thank you,” or “you’re welcome.”
- 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.
- Mae: This expression is used like “dude”. It is only used between males, a word you’ll hear peppered in young peoples’ speech.
- Estar de goma: Having a hangover.
- Tuanis: A surfer slang expression that roughly means “cool,” it’s a Spanish adaptation from the phrase “too nice.”
- Orinar fuera del tarro | “To pee outside the can”: This graphic expression is used when someone is totally off base or has done something grossly inappropriate.
- Suave un toque | “Hold on a sec”: Embracing this expression is an important step toward learning how to relax. There’s also just suave (“easy” or “slow down”).
- Brete: Work or job.
- Dolor de jupa: A headache.
- Estar de chicha: To be angry.
- 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.
- Por dicha: Thank goodness.
- 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.
- 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.
- Jale: Let’s go!
- Hablar Paja: Talking nonsense or bullshitting,
- Andar de tanda: Bar hopping.
- Llegar a la hora del burro: To arrive late.
- Que Chiva: So cool.
- Buena nota | “Cool or nice person”: Literally “good note,” this expression is used often in Costa Rica to say someone is cool or nice.
- Zarpe | “Last round,” “last call”: The zarpe is an important social institution in Costa Rica. No night out is complete without it.