A Crash Course In Tico Spanish
If you're going to Costa Rica, look no further than this guide for all you need to know about the unique Spanish there.
To this day, I find myself asking Ricky about words they used all the time that I never really grasped the use of.
If you're not going to Costa Rica, maybe it's time to change you mind...
Costa Rica is beautiful, the people there are mostly wonderful, and it's one of those incredible, magical places where howler monkeys might just throw leaves and twigs at you while you dine!
Learning And Not Learning The Hard Way
I moved to Costa Rica for a year from November 2015 to December 2016. I had a little bit of Spanish in my brain before that, but upon arriving I realized just how useless that little bit of Spanish in my brain was.
Throughout the year, I spent a lot of time with Ricky and his friends, sitting quietly, straining to understand bits and pieces, and mimicking social cues so it would seem like I was part of the fun.
Not to worry, I did learn to understand the majority of what was being talked about. Though I never would've been able to translate word-for-word, I could tell you the gist of a conversation. Good enough for me!
To save you the trouble of all that awkward sitting, ear straining, and pretending, we've compiled a list of the words you will hear but might be confused by in Costa Rica.
When every other word is slangy, this might give you a leg-up. I know it would've saved me a lot of trouble! Thanks Ricky, for writing it now!
All The Tico Slang You Need To Know Before You Go
I asked Ricky to write this guide and so, here are the words you might hear and be baffled by when you go to Costa Rica.
First, let's cover the things people call each other.
Tico/Tica - This one you might be familiar with. Costa Rican's are known as Ticos and Ticas.
Guila - In Spanish class, I learned that this was an insulting word for girls, but in Costa Rica it's one of the most common words to describe young women. Ricky and his friends used this word A LOT.
Pa/Ma - Costa Ricans shorten many of their words. Pa and Ma come from Papa and Mama, but in Costa Rica they often refer to friends this way.
Cabro/Cabra - Literally means "goat", but usually refers to your boyfriend or girlfriend.
Bicho - Literally means "insect", but Costa Rican's refer to each other as Bicho fondly (mainly men).
Roco/Roca - A word for older people.
Mae - Mae is used like "man" in English. "Hey, man". "What's up, man". "Man, that iguana just chased me all the way here".
And no language guide would be complete without talking about food and drink!
Fria - Fria means cold, but is used when ordering "a cold one".
Aguila - Literally means eagle, but an eagle is the logo of one of the two most popular beers in Costa Rica, Imperial.
Rubia - Literally means blonde, but refers here to the second of the two most popular beers in Costa Rica, Pilsen (I prefer Pilsen to Imperial).
Moncha - Food.
Birra - Beer.
Guaro - Liquor.
Now, the good stuff - the idioms and expressions that you'll hear all the time that baffled me to no end!
A Pata - Literally means "animal foot" and is used to say you're walking somewhere.
Bañazo - Describes a person as ridiculous.
Bombeta - Descibes a person as snooty. As in "que bombeta que sos".
Bostezo - Like a yawn. Used to emphasize a boring situation. "Esta fiesta es un bostezo".
Tuanis - Something nice. "Este blog esta tuanis".
A Cachete Inflando - Inflated cheek. Describes a person or situation as doing really well. "Mira este reloj que me compre. A cachete inflado".
Mas Tico Que El Gallo Pinto - More local (tico) than the traditional rice and beans dish.
No Guevon - "No shit". Guevon can be used in a lot of ways. It can refer to a person or an expression but is usually used to emphasize the obvious.
Que Torta - Used for mistakes and mishaps.
Diay - "So".
Goma - Hungover
Por Dicha - Lucky
Manda Huevo - Translates directly to "send eggs", but is used in a "no way" or "how could you" kind of way.
Si Habla Paja - Describes someone who talks a lot of bullshit.
Suave - Translated it means soft, but Costa Rican's use it as "Slow down".
Salado - The direct translation is "Salty", but it's used to describe someone who is unlucky or to say "Too bad".
Zarpe - Last call or last drink. Can be said by the bartenders or bartendees (is that a word? it should be).
Camote - Someone who is mad.
Despiche - A messed up situation.
Dolor De Huevos - Hard one to explain. Literally it means "egg pain" but it is used to refer to someone or an activity as a "pain in the ass".
Picha - Literally means penis or dick. But is used as an expression like a swearword or to emphasize expression. Sometimes you'll hear this two or three times in a sentence.
Te Apuntas - Used as a question to see if someone is into doing something.
Claro - "Clear" or "Of course". To express understanding.
Achantado - Someone who is laid back.
Pal - Costa Ricans tend to shorten and combine their words. Pal is shortened from para + el, which means to or toward. "Vamos pal' bar" instead of "Vamos para el bar".
Un Toque - Directly translated to "Touch", but is used in two different ways in Costa Rica - to describe "a little bit" or something "cool". "Un toque" means "a little bit" and "Que toque" means "cool".
Como Esta El Arroz - Literally translates to "How is the rice", but is used to ask how a situation is.
Que Jeta - Used to describe a situation you can't believe.
Jeton - A liar.
Nombres - Used like "no way".
Al Chile - "Really" or "No way".
Choricero - Describes a person who rips someone off.
Tapis - A little drunk.
Chante - House or home.
And, just in case you aren't already aware of the big one...
Pura Vida - Pure life - The way of life in Costa Rica that focuses on slowing down and appreciating what you have. You can use this as a question the same way you would use "how's it going".
Did we miss any? Let us know about your trip to Costa Rica or any struggles you've had with language barriers in the comments below!
As always, thanks for reading, and don't forget to follow the sloth!