Costa Rican Sayings – How to Talk Like a Tico

Costa Rican Sayings - learn to talk like a Tico
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Every country in the world has their own vocabulary, you can call it slang, street vocabulary, sayings or cultural phrases.

Whatever you want to call it, it is one of the most fun experiences for travelers and tourists and it’s always fun to learn the bad words and slang in a different language.

There are plenty of Costa Rican sayings that only make sense if you grew up in the country and some of them are used only in Costa Rica.

Even if you know Spanish 100%, it would just not make any sense to you if you never heard Costa Rican slang before!

Here are some phrases that you might hear a lot when you come to my country, I always hear that it is very funny for other Spanish speakers to listen to Costa Ricans talk because we speak so slang. Just remember that the first one is the most important one to know.

If you’re interested in learning some basic yet important words and phrases in Spanish, check out our introductory guide which includes a downloadable pocket cheat sheet.

These are my top 18 Costa Rican sayings

1 – Pura vida (pure life): Probably the most famous phrase in CR, you can use Pura Vida for a greeting, thank somebody or with anything related to good. For instance:  Hola Puravida! Como estas? Pura vida Como estuvo tu día ? Pura vida gracias! Este muchacho es pura vida. You can use pura vida even when you talk to the president.

2 – Mae (Similar to dude): It comes from the word MAJE, we use Mae to call somebody between friends. For instance: Que mae pura vida ! (what’s up dude), Mae vamos (Dude let’s go)

3 – Detras del Palo (Behind the Tree): When you or someone doesn’t know anything about the topic. Example: Mae estoy detras del palo que es eso (dude I am behind the tree I don’t know what are you taking about), Mae usted esta detras del palo mejor cierre el pico (Dude you are behind the tree keep the beak close)

4 – Miando fuera del tarro (taking a pee out of the can): Similar to above, you can choose which one to use.

5- Hasta aquí me la presto Dios (Until now God borrow me): It is a expression as you are telling a story and you thought that you will die. Example: pense que hasta aquí me la presto Dios ! (I thought I was going to die).

6- Buena nota (good grade): We use that phrase most of the time to say thanks or to refer to somebody that did something nice or that person is a good person. Example: Buena nota mae gracias por traerme las chanclas (thank you for bringing me the flip flops), Ese mae si es buena nota (that guy is nice).

7- Que pega(what a stick): When someone or something is very annoying. Example: Ese mae es una pega (that guy is so annoying), que pega ir al banco (sucks going to the bank).

8- Que torta (what a patty): When you make an important mistake, break something, screw up, lost something. Also is use for unwanted pregnancy:  Mae me jale torta con la wila ( My girl friend is pregnant), Que torta se me olvido traer los pasaportes (I forgot to bring the passports)

9- Lava huevos (wash the eggs): is the act of sucking up to somebody. Example: Ese mae es un lava huevos con el jefe (that guy is sucking up to the boss).

10- Esta mamando (you are sucking): When you don’t know how to do something or somebody else is doing or saying something complete wrong. Example: Alvaro Saborio esta mamando en la sele (Alvaro Saborio sucks on the national soccer team).

11- Tengala adentro (keep it inside): Take your time, think about it, don’t do it now. Example: Mae tengala adentro espere por el resultado (Don’t do it, wait for the result).

12- Que pelada (what a peeled):  when you do something really wrong or embarrassing, most of the time in public. For example: Que pelada se pego la sele (The national team played so bad).

13-Que Lechero (what a milkman): when somebody is very lucky. Example: Ese mae si es un lechero gano la lotería 2 veces (That guy is so lucky he won the lottery twice).

14 – Que tigra (What a female tiger): Synonym of bored, laziness of doing something. Example: Que tigra me tengo (I am so bored), que tigra ir a bretiar hoy (I feel lazy to go to work).

15- Deme un toque (Give me a touch): Give me a second Example: Mae deme un toque ya lo llamo (I’ll call you right back).

16- Perro amarrado (tied dog): It means to owe money for a while. Example: tengo un perro amarrado en la pulpe (I owe money to the grocery store).

17- Que camote (what a yam): we use it for everything related to craziness. Example: Ese mae esta camote (That guy is crazy).

18- Paracaidas (parachute): Person that shows up without invitation, party crashers. These are just a few of the many unique Costa Rican phrases. Don’t forget to check out Costa Rica sayings part two! Pura vida for visiting our blog. Toas mae !

You can learn more Costa Rican sayings in this funny phrasebook.

Here is a funny video of a Gringo asking for directions in Costa Rica. See how funny the literal translations are!

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    • Sammi says

      That’s one of my favorite ones too! (usually because it’s true for me haha) In English it sounds pretty funny as well!

  1. Mauricio says

    “Llevela suave” or “llevela del cuello” are both very similar to #11
    “buenazo” is very similar to #6
    “al chile” refers to something that is for real, can also be a question: “¿al chile? – For real?

    • Sammi says

      Haha I was always told not to say mae because it didn’t sound as nice coming from a woman. Que pega is fun though!

  2. alex says

    My friends in CR always say the word “cho” when they are bummed or mad or annoyed.. What does it mean?

  3. sporto505 says

    Gringo Pinto video is a nightmare for me. It is how fast the spanish really is spoken in CR. I have a hard time hearing just one word much less the whole sentence. Most hombres seem to speak slower then the mujeres. Las mujeres blitz thru their speech faster than superman stops a speeding bullet. BUT keep listening to this video daily until you can hear the words. it will help you when you visit this great country

    • Sammi says

      Haha yeah, some of the Costa Ricans do speak super fast! I’m lucky that with Yeison I’m always listening to him talk so I’m pretty used to it but it’s intimidating for someone who’s just learning. The first words to learn are definitely “mas despacio por favor” haha

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