Tiquismos - Idioms from Costa Rica

Free Spanish Grammar

Although Costa Rican people speak Spanish, there are many words, phrases and expressions used by them that are not easily understood by other Spanish speakers. This article focuses on some of the most common words you will learn when traveling to Costa Rica. This list of Costa Rican idioms also gives examples of use and explanations in English.

People in Costa Rica

Expresiones Idiomáticas en Costa Rica: "Tiquismos" con ejemplos.

  • Ahora - although ahora means “now” it is generally used to mean “in a while” or “later”. There is another word, ahorita, which is nearer in the future.
  • Ahorita - similar to ahora, but nearer in the future.
    - ¿A qué hora termina el programa de televisión? / What time does the TV program finish?
    - Ahorita, ¿me esperas? / Right now. Will you wait for me?
  • Pura Vida - the first idiom you will learn. It means great, OK, fine, very well or excellent.
    - ¿Cómo estás? / How are you?
    - ¡Pura vida! / Excellent!
  • Achará - to be a pity.
    - Achará que no hayamos podido ir a la fiesta./ It's a pity that we could not go to the party.
  • Agarrado - a person that does not like to spend money.
    - Mario es un agarrado, nunca gasta ni un centavo. / Mario is mean, he never spends a cent.
  • Agarrar de mono o chanco a alguien - to take someone as a fool.
    ¡No me agarres de mono! / Don’t take me as a fool
  • Amarrar el perro - not to pay something to a person, be in a debt.
    - Pedro me debe dinero y no responde mis llamadas, ya veo que amarró el perro. / Pedro owes me money and does not answer my phone calls, I think he is not going to pay me.
  • ¿Al chile? - Really?
    - Escuché que los García se van de vacaciones a Europa. / I’ve heard that the García are going on vacation in Europe.
    - ¿Al chile? / Really?
  • Bañazo - foolish, ridiculous.
    ¡Qué bañazo no aprobar el examen de conducir! / What a shame I didn’t pass the driving exam!
  • Boca - an appetizer or snack similar to tapas in Spanish cuisine ('boca' is literally 'mouth').
    - Mozo, ¿nos sirve unas bocas y una cerveza? / Waiter, could you bring some snacks and a beer?
  • Cien metros / una cuadra - "one block", or the distance from one side road to the next. This may be far less or far more than the actual 100 meters that you would expect.
    - ¿Dónde hay una farmacia?
    - Allí, a cien metros.
  • Chunche - stuff, thing.
    - ¿Qué es ese chunche? / What's that thing?
  • Con toda la pata - to be healthy.
    - Desde que comencé mis clases de gimnasia estoy con toda la pata /Since I started my gym lessons I feel very healthy.
  • ¡Qué ahuevado! - How boring! How bad!
    ¡Qué ahuevada es esta película! / How boring is this film!
  • Compa - buddy or friend.
    - Mamá, voy a la plaza con mis compas / Mum, I’m going to the square with my friends.
  • Chema - shirt.
    - ¡Qué color tan bonito de chema! ¿Dónde la compraste? / What a nice colour for a shirt! Where did you buy it?
  • Mae - dude, man or woman
    - Ese mae es muy simpático / That dude is really nice.
  • Manzana - a land measure in Costa Rica. About 7000 square meters.
    - El nuevo edificio ocupa toda la manzana / The new building occupies the entire block.
  • Mañana - "not today" and possibly "never".
    - ¿Vamos a hacer un viaje este verano?
    - Sí, mañana.
  • Playada - treachery.
    - El esposo de María se fue de su casa con otra mujer, ¡qué playada! / María’s husband left her for another woman, what a betrayal!
  • ¡Qué chiva! - How cool!
    - Mira, este es mi nuevo teléfono celular. / Take a look at my new mobile phone.
    - ¡Qué chiva! / How cool!
  • Rata - a self-centered person.
    - No esperes recibir ayuda de Raúl, él es una rata. / Don’t wait for Raul to help you, he is a self-centered person.
  • Lacra - a thief or person with a bad reputation.
    - Nunca confíes en una persona como él, es una lacra. / Don’t ever trust someone like him, he is a thief.
  • Usted - the use of "usted" in Costa Rica is very important and a characteristic of their culture. Costa Rican people use it a lot, and in some cases they use it even to speak to members of the family, or to young people.
  • Vos - used to address someone informally, used instead of .


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