Costa Rican Spanish: Words To Talk Like A Real Tico

Costa Rica, a tropical paradise nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, is not just known for its breathtaking landscapes and diverse ecosystems but also for its unique language and cultural nuances.

Tico Spanish Words

These are some of the Tico Spanish words that you should know if you are planning to visit Costa Rica and talk to the locals.

1. Mae: Derived from the English word “man,” “mae” is a colloquial term widely used in Costa Rica to refer to a friend or buddy. It’s a versatile word that can be heard in casual conversations, bringing a sense of familiarity and camaraderie among locals. For example, you might hear someone say, “¡Hola, mae! ¿Cómo estás?” which translates to “Hey, buddy! How are you?”


2. Tuanis: An expression that denotes something cool, great, or awesome, “tuanis” is deeply ingrained in Costa Rican slang. When locals want to express approval or excitement, you’ll often hear them use this word. For instance, if you ask someone about their day, and they had a fantastic experience, they might respond with “Estuvo tuanis,” meaning “It was awesome.”


3. Gallo Pinto: While not a slang term, “Gallo Pinto” is a staple of Costa Rican cuisine and deserves a spot in our exploration. This traditional dish, consisting of rice and beans mixed together, is a breakfast favorite. The name translates to “painted rooster,” and its origins are deeply rooted in the country’s agricultural history. A morning conversation in Costa Rica might revolve around the simple joy of sharing a plate of Gallo Pinto.


4. Pulpería: A small convenience store or a corner shop is commonly known as a “pulpería” in Costa Rica. These establishments are essential hubs for locals to grab daily necessities or enjoy a quick snack. If you find yourself in need of something on the go, you can ask someone for directions to the nearest pulpería.


5. Tico/Tica: Costa Ricans affectionately refer to themselves as “ticos” (for males) and “ticas” (for females). This endearing term is a symbol of national pride and unity. If you make friends with locals, they might introduce themselves as proud “ticos” or “ticas.”


6. Guaro: For those looking to experience the local nightlife, “guaro” is a term you should become familiar with. It refers to a popular Costa Rican liquor made from sugarcane. Whether you’re at a beach party or a local bar, you might be offered a shot of guaro to fully immerse yourself in the social scene.


7. Hora Tica: In Costa Rica, punctuality is often a flexible concept. “Tico time” refers to the relaxed approach locals have towards schedules and time management. If someone tells you they’ll meet you at a certain time, don’t be surprised if they arrive a bit later. Embrace the laid-back rhythm and adapt to the easygoing pace of “Tico time.”


8. Aguevado: In Costa Rican slang, “aguevado” can also be used to express a feeling of being sad or downhearted. So, you might translate “estoy aguevado” as “I am feeling down” or “I am sad.”

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