The real hallmark that you are a Tico: speaking “real” Spanish aka their slang. In any language, nobody speaks formally like the way they teach you in high school language class.
Costa Rica Spanish has so much slang it’s crazy. I’ve said some words that I had no idea meant something else and was taken out of context. But how am I supposed to know right?
Yeison wrote a post about his favorite Costa Rica Spanish slang words and phrases and here are some more of his favorite and commonly used slang words. Many of these have double (or triple) meaning depending on how you use them. So if you’re in Costa Rica, careful when you say these ones!
If you’re interested in learning some “proper” Spanish basics, check out our introduction to basic Spanish words and phrases.
Costa Rica Spanish Slang Part 2
Pipa – You know these as the cold coconut drinks you see at the beach with the vendors yelling “pipa, pipa fria!” Yep pipa is a coconut but it is also slang for a pipe to smoke weed. I was with Yeison and a friend on our balcony and I mentioned that I could just agarrar una pipa and they both gave me super weird looks. No silly, I meant the coconut trees in our backyard! One additional meaning is a way to describe somebody as smart.
Perico – Perico means parrot in Spanish but they also use it as a term for cocaine. Reason why? When you sniff cocaine it gives you a sharp pain in your nose like a parrot biting your nose. Yeison’s brother had a hilarious incident with perico (and he’s a Tico) and he learned the hard way what it meant.
Hale – On business doors, you’ll see the word hale which means to pull. It also can be used as a way to say “get out!” in a not so nice way. If you start yelling it somewhere, people might think you’re telling them to get out of there.
Al chile – This is how they say “really?” The first time I heard it, I kept wondering if they were randomly talking about chili or peppers! But nope, that’s how they say really? as in “are you serious?”
Viejo Verde – Literal translation means green old man. Sounds really weird, why would you ever call someone a green old man? But that’s actually what they call older men who are um, kind of perverted.
Suave – This means soft but if you say it in a heated conversation or argument to the other person, it’s like saying hey calm down. Suave mae! Take it easy man!
Gallo – This means rooster which you probably learned when you ate gallo pinto but it also has another meaning. It also means loogie which is slang in English for spit with phlegm and mucus. Your spit has gotta have some good chunks in there to be called a gallo.
Harina – Means flour but it’s slang for money. Pretty much the equivalent to the English word “dough” as a slang way to call money. I was really confused when people would ask me if I had flour with me. Why would I carry around flour? Ohhhh… yeah makes sense now!
Pura Paja – Paja means straw but this doesn’t mean pure straw. It means bullsh*t. Paja also has some other degrading meanings which I won’t mention to keep it PG-13. You can look it up yourself if you’re curious.
Goma – It means glue but is also slang for hangover. If your friend wakes up in the morning after a night of partying and says tengo goma mae it means he has a terrible hangover, not glue.
Rojos and tejas – These are used in regards to colones, their currency. One rojo means one red in English but they actually mean 1000 colones ($2) because it is a red bill. A teja is a tile but if someone is says “dos tejas” it means two hundred. A teja is a hundred.
Se despicho tere – You say this when something goes wrong or if somebody fails or hits himself very bad. I actually thought this was the equivalent to saying “he totally ate it” in English. Apparently it’s like that but on a higher level (more like I f*cked up) and I said it when I fell while stand up paddle boarding. My guide was thoroughly entertained.
A few extras
Just when you think that’s already a lot of slang, here are some more! Some have translation in English, some don’t.
Choza or chante – If somebody asks you to go to their choza or chante, they mean their house.
Brete – Slang for work. If someone says they have to go to brete instead of hanging out, they’re not blowing you off, they gotta go to their job.
Chunche – English translation “thingy” or “thingamabob” So if someone asks to give them the chunche, they’re asking you for that thingy over there. It’s also the nickname for a Costa Rica icon futbol player Mauricio Montero “El chunche”
Mop – Another way to say friend or man. You can also say muppet. (Yeison uses this one a lot with one friend in particular, it’s mop this mop that whenever they’re together)
Wacala – Spanish word for gross or eww or yuck! If somebody says your house is wacala, that is a bad thing. Like really bad. You can also say que asco which is not a good thing either so clean your house!
Aletazo – Aletazo comes from the word Aleta that means fin in English. If somebody tells you “Que aleta” it means that your armpit smells bad. So if somebody says to you Que aletazo mae you should probably buy a new deodorant.
Aplayado – This means girly so you can describe a guy as aplayado if he is very feminine. Or something cutesy like a pink bike with sparkles and tassels.
Brocha – Means brush but is slang for cocksucker. If somebody says you are very brocha with your boss, it’s not that you’re brushing your boss, you’re being a suck up!
Cabra – Means goat in English but it’s the slang way for how ticos call their girlfriends … Hey mae como esta su cabra ? (How nice)
Codo – This means elbow but if someone calls you codo they mean you are cheap. Not just normal cheap but super cheap.
Chuchinga – Males that hit females.
Estuche – The literal meaning is case but for Ticos that is what they call their stadium. This is very important to them since futbol is a huge part of their culture. Mae vamos al estuche el Domingo
Jumas – If you are jumas, you are drunk!
Lata – It means can, but if someone says they’re waiting for the lata, they’re actually waiting for the bus
Now you’re starting to talk like a Tico! The few times I’ve used these words, all my Costa Rican friends applauded and congratulated me. It’s one of the defining ways you can tell where someone is from or where someone learned Spanish since the slang varies greatly from country to country.
Heck, if you say pura vida in any Spanish speaking country, they’ll automatically know you’re from Costa Rica. I just wish someone told me the double meanings before I landed myself in some awkward situations but hey, that’s how you learn right? And it makes for some pretty funny stories!
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