Well, this topic has a lot of fabric to cut? ... Mucha tela que cortar?

What? No, that didn’t translate quite right! Probably because I am trying to translate a phrase that is part of Costa Rican slang!

In Costa Rica, we have a lot of words and phrases that can basically create a second language that only Costa Ricans will understand. But no worries, there is always someone to teach you … just be careful who it is, as someone might end up teaching you something inappropriate on purpose 😉 I have a mental picture of some poor tourist in a bar, and everyone is trying to get him to say funny things to have a laugh at his expense…

First of all, let’s review few words that you will find quite often on our blog:

  • Tico: Adding the suffix -ico, -ito to every word is a way to make things cute. So this has given us the nickname of Ticos (Ticas for female) from other Central American countries because of this way to call things little.  

For example:

Q: “Quiere cafecito? (Do you want coffee?)

A: Si un poquiTICO (just a little bit)….. even harder pronounce when they say: Si un poquitititiTICO (try to say it ;)) we do this exaggeration to make sure that we are really just getting a little bit.

At the end, it’s  just a regular cup of coffee, but we want to sound nicer so we add the suffix! I am guilty of this one!

  • Tiquicia (Tikizia “our version”): Ticos + Icia=”Ticos´s land,” “Place of Ticos.”  (In other words, “Costa Rica”). We spell it differently mainly because we think it will be easier to pronounce, but anyway, we explore Costa Rica.
  • Pura Vida: “Pure Life” Of course, we can not miss this one. It’s our country’s slogan, and probably one of the most overused phrases. Everyone says this to tourists, but two interesting facts behind the phrase are:

1) More than a phrase, this is a lifestyle (I know it sounds cliche, but I will explain it more in another blog.)

2) The phrase came to Costa Rica after a Mexican movie of a comedian called Clavillazo, who repeated the phrase a hundred times and gave way to the words that now identify us.

Our second language: The funny “Pachuco Costa Ricans slang”

Pachuco: Wikipedia defines this word this way:

“The term “pachuco” is used in Costa Rica to define Costa Rican slang. It nevertheless differs from Mexican slang. In Costa Rica, the term “pachuco” refers to someone who has common habits and who is often very rude… Some consider pachuco and its pachuquísmos to be Costa Rica’s second language.”

Honestly, I don’t use all of these. Some are just not my style, but I tried to ask several people their favorite ones. No one came up with the same list, but here are the ones that everyone had in common.

Easy Costa Rican slang (Pachucos)

1. Mop / Mae: “Buddy” “Mate” “Dude”. Mae = “dude” (the second most popular word here after Pura Vida).


SP: Como esta, mop? Pura Vida, Mop.

EN: How are you, mop? Pura Vida, Mop.

2. Estar de Goma: To have a hangover.


SP: Ayer me fui de fiesta y hoy estoy de goma.

EN: I went to party  yesterday and today I have a hangover

3. Tapis:  Someone that likes to drink a lot, a heavy drinker


SP: Ese mae es bien tapis! Siempre borracho!

EN: That guy is a heavy drinker! Always drunk!

4. Tuanis: Cool. It comes from the English “too nice” (as in, “really nice”)  Over the years we adapted it to  Spanish and gave it a meaning.


SP: Que tuanis ese mae! Me cayo demasiado bien.

EN: What a cool guy! I like him a lot.

5. Bañazo: It’s not related to wash or to shower. It’s to be embarrassed.


SP: Iba corriendo y me caí, que bañazo!

EN: I was running and fell over, how embarrassing!

6.Polo: Means cheesy, awkward.


SP: Mira ese mae es demasiado polo.

EN: Look that guy, he is really cheesy.

7. Moncha: Food, that’s it!


SP: A que hora es la moncha mañana?

EN: What time is food tomorrow?

8. Jupa: Head


SP: Me duele la jupa.

EN: I have a headache!

9. Yodo: Literally means iodine but for us, it is synonymous with coffee.


SP: Vamos a tomar yodo a Starbucks!

EN: Let’s go drink coffee at Starbucks!

10. Al chile!: An exclamation, “Really?”

SP: Al chile le paso eso!?

EN: Really, did that happen to you?

Advanced Costa Rican slang

11. Que tigra!: Lazy


SP: Que tigra salir de la casa!

EN:  I feel too lazy to go out of the house!

12. Cara de Barro: Shameless


SP: Mira ese hombre. Que carabarro!

EN: Look at that man. How shameless!

13. Estar Ahuevado: To be sad or when plans don’t go the way expected.

SP: Ya casi va a llover, que ahuevado!

EN: It’s almost about to rain, que ahuevado!

14. Suave un toque: To wait, to slow down or wait for something.


SP: Hey, Suave un toque!  Tengo que ir al baño !

EN: Hey, Wait a minute!  I need to go to the bathroom!

15. Que yegua!: Literally means female horse, but for us means dumbass or idiot. Taxi drivers scream this a lot.


SP: Ese tipo es una yegua para manejar!

EN: That guy is an idiot to drive!

16. Pedir cacao: To ask forgiveness or when you request another opportunity and want to solve a situation.


SP: Parece que termino con la novia ayer y ya le esta pidiendo cacao otra vez!

EN: Seems like he broke up with his girlfriend yesterday and now he is asking for another chance.

17. Que Madre!!: Exclamation when something bad happens. That’s really bad!


SP: Le paso algo a mi camara, que madre!

EN: Something happened to my camera, that’s really bad!

So,  there you have it, a brief survival list equipped for your next conversation with some Ticos.

Whether you want to have a friendly chat with a mop about your girlfriend or boyfriend to get the advice or to pedir cacao after you estar de goma, you should be able to hold your own.

Good luck, and… ¡pura vida!

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