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A Guide to Costa Rican Slang

Updated on December 4, 2011

Going to Costa Rica? Want to impress the locals by going one step further and using this PG-rated guide to the Top 5 "Tico" slang? Read on!

San José, the capital of Costa Rica
San José, the capital of Costa Rica | Source

1. Pura vida

This is the number one phrase you NEED to know when going to Costa Rica. Pura vida literally translates "pure life". It's a saying, a greeting, it's pretty much the country's motto. It encapsulates not only Costa Rica's physical beauty, but the mindset and lifestyle of Costa Ricans themselves - happy, laid back and appreciative of life and its joys.

2. Tico

This one I've already dropped on you. Tico is the nickname for a Costa Rican. A female version would be tica, and the plural would be ticos. Example of usage: "Soy tico."

Costa Rica is not the only country to have a nickname for its people. New Zealanders, for instance, call themselves kiwis, after their national bird.

3. Mae

Mae = man, dude, bro. Although this word has traditionally been used by males, females are beginning to use it more, too. Some Ticos use mae multiple times in a single sentence, almost as a filler word, like "like" in English.

4. Chiva

Chiva = cool. Most commonly used as a remark "¡Qué chiva!" or even as an adjective.

5. Tuanis

This is similar to chiva , and is another way of remarking that something is "cool". However, this is more commonly used by males, especially in the province of Limón. A possible American slang equivalent could be "awesome", whilst a British slang equivalent could be "mint" and a New Zealand slang equivalent could be "sweet as".


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    • samanthamayer profile image

      samanthamayer 6 years ago from New Zealand

      Thank you, I find it quite interesting myself. It can also be quite important because even if you know Spanish, each Hispanic country has its own set of slang words they use often, which can be confusing for tourists.

    • hrymel profile image

      Haley 6 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      I love learning new slang words, it makes learning new languages more interesting. Thanks.

    • samanthamayer profile image

      samanthamayer 6 years ago from New Zealand

      Great to hear! I adore Costa Rican Spanish and love conversing with Costa Ricans, primarily so that I can exercise these slang words!

    • Sky9106 profile image

      Sky9106 6 years ago from A beautiful place on earth.

      This is nice , I will let my friend who is from that part of the world see it . He is from CR. Thanks for sharing.