Top 10 Tico Talk: How to speak in Costa Rican slang

by | October 2, 2019

Every country has its slang, and Costa Rica is no exception. From ways to say hello, to words that can fit in almost all situations, or phrases with unique meaning when said by a tico… That’s our “tico talk”! This is our top 10 of words and phrases that are common to locals that tend to be quite confusing for visitors, and forces them to ask their meanings. Keep these handy and talk like a local!

10. Hablar Paja / Literally: “to speak hay”

Although in other countries could be misinterpreted in Costa Rica someone “pajoso” (containing hay, bullshit) is whom always says lies or talks nonsense: “Qué hablada de paja” / “Deje de hablar paja” (What a bunch of bullshit / Stop talking bullshit).

Someone “pura paja” uploads the level being someone who promises something and never accomplish: “Qué mae más pura paja” (That dude is bullshit)

Also it can be interpreted as chatting about trivial things, “nos quedamos hablando paja” (We were just chatting).

9. ¡Qué chiva! / How cool!

Chivo and chiva”! These words can mean many different things to the Ticos besides to the male and female goat. It may refer to goatee beard and also it is used to say that something is good, beautiful or interesting: ¡Qué chiva! ¡Está chivísima! (It’s cool / supercool)

  • It is used to say that someone is angry: ¡Se puso chiva! ¡Fulanito se chiveó! (He got angry)
  • A type of public minibus is also called a “chiva” or “chivilla”.
  • Finally, concerts in Costa Rica are informally known as “Chivo”.

8. Pelos de gato / Cat’s hair

In Costa Rica we have many ways of naming the rain; according to its intensity, we have, llovizna (light rain), aguacero (intense rain), chubasco (rain showers), baldazo (short and intense rain), diluvio (flood)… When we say that it is falling “cat hair”, it refers to a soft rain that is barely noticeable and we should not give importance.

7. Bombeta / Cracker bomb

Bombeta (cracker bomb) for the Ticos refers to a type of fireworks which are mainly used in December holidays. But actually in Costa Rica we have “bombetas” throughout the year.

A person that likes to stand out is also called “bombeta”, someone who always participates in all the social activities, who knows everyone, talks to everyone, can even be a bit nosy and might not get along with some people. Usually people as noisy as a cracker bomb!

6. ¡Qué dicha! / How fortunate!

Ticos are “dichosos” (fortunate). “Dicha” (fortune / joy) is a commonly used word in our daily lives, so much that we hardly realize its use, until someone from outside notices it:

  • As an exclamation to indicate good luck or favorable situation: ¡Qué dicha! (How fortunate!)
  • Same exclamation, in sarcastic tone to indicate disagreement: Qué dicha que me está oyendo… (Luckily I’m being heard!)
  • As a reason to explain a fortunate event:  Por dicha se nos ocurrió…(Luckily we thought of it)
  • Reason for personal well-being: How did it go / how are you? ¡Bien, por dicha! (fortunately well!)
  • As an adjective indicating compliment or envy someone else: ¡Qué dichoso/a! (How fortunate!)

5.  Jale “a pata” / Let’s go walking!

It is a colloquial way in Costa Rica to say we want to walk somewhere. “Jalar” is used to say “let’s go”, also to say someone is leaving (va jalando, voy jalado) or that a couple is in a relationship (están jalando) besides its original meaning: “to pull”.

4. Chunche / Thing, or stuff

When you hear the word “chunche” it could mean anything: a big car, a small object or a thing whose name you can’t remember… “Chunche” can also be conjugated to express an action; i.e: “¡Chuncherequéeme esa birra, porfa!” = “Open that beer for me, please!”. Ah, and there’s also a well know ex-soccer player so called “El Chunche

3. Suave / Easy!

When you hear someone shouting “suave!” you may think he or she is saying that something is soft… But in Costa Rica “suave” is equivalent to “easy!”, referred to take things calmly, to wait, or go slowly. So if the bus driver is leaving you behind, shouting “suave!” is one of the best ways to call his attention.

2. Mejenga

It means a non-professional soccer match, with your friends or neighbors. A proper ball or field are not required to enjoy a great “mejenga”.

Although it’s common to hear: “Jale a ver la mejenga” referring to watch a soccer match on T.V.

1. ¡Diay!

Probably one of the most used expressions of Costa Rica.

“Diay” is an interjection, it means, a word that is used to express different emotions and moods. It’s a very versatile word and depending on the tone and intention can refer to many different things:

  • Greeting: ¡Diay! = (What’s up?)
  • Interrogation – ¿Diay? (What’s happening?)
  • Admiration – ¡Diaaay! (Woow!)
  • Resignation – Diay… (Well…)
  • Complaint: ¡¿Diay?!!! (What’s wrong with you?)
  • Doubt: Diaaay… (I don’t know…)