Sometimes Spanish class just isn’t enough, especially when it comes to learning these Costa Rica slang & sayings. Each Spanish speaking country has a slight variation when it comes to their language. Similar to the differences in British English and English spoken in the United States.
Here is a list of all the most common slang words & sayings Costa Ricans use so that way you are never out of the loop! Plus you will sound like a local.
Pura Vida – The literal translation is “Pure Life” but for the Costa Rican people it is an all encompassing phrase. For instance someone asks “How are you?” you can respond “Pura Vida” or if someone says “See you later” you can say “Pura Vida”. You are late to an appointment? Pura Vida. Enjoying the beach? Pura Vida. It is essentially a way of life here!
Tico/Tica – means Costa Rican. A Tico is a Costa Rican man and a Tica is a Costa Rican woman. Ticos have a tendency to make things diminutive with the suffix -tico or -tica, so much so they were named after it! Ticos created words like pequeñitica, chiquitico, or azulitico. It’s very endearing!
Mae – pronounced like “my” it means “bro”,”dude”, or ”man”. Costa Ricans, especially surfers will frequently use it in a sentence. Actually it may be the most often said word in Costa Rica, next to Pura Vida of course!
Tuanis – pronounced like “too-a-knees” and may have originated from a misheard mispronunciation of “too nice”. Tuanis means cool and is mainly used by the younger generations.
A Cachete – Cachete literally means a cheek but “A Cachete” means everything is going great! You are out enjoying life, the sun is shining, the waves are crashing and you can shout “A Cachete”!
Chunche/Chunches – means a thing or stuff. It is a word you use when you can’t find the proper name for an item right away. Or it’s a chunche when you forgot the name altogether or if you can’t pronounce the word. Similar to a whatchamacallit.
Por Dicha – The literal translation for Dicha is bliss. Por Dicha means fortunately, thankfully or luckily. It is an expression of gratitude and thankfulness.
Zaguate – my personal favorite, Zaguate means street dog. But not just any street dog, a Costa Rican street dog! A zaguate is the perfect mix of so many dog breeds you can’t even tell the origin anymore. A zaguate is the bestest friend you will ever have. Interested in learning more about these lovable pups? Check out one of my older blogs (https://blog.costarican-american-connection.com/costa-rican-zaguates/)
Birra – pronounced like beer-a… you guessed it, means beer! No need to use the word cerveza here, Costa Ricans will understand if you order a nice cold birra.
Wacala – means yuck! When you eat something that isn’t tasty or step into something unsavory you can shout “wacala”!
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to tiquismos or Costa Rican slang/sayings. Ticos are always creating new words. Thankfully Ticos love to share their culture and will happily teach you as much slang as you can remember. Pura vida mae, time to grab a birra with my zaguate!
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