Tico Expressions

Costa Ricans or Ticos are friendly and hospitable people who are eager to show their lovely country to visitors. The locals are always ready to help with a smile and share as much information as a listener can absorb without losing patience.

Pura Vida

Outside of major tourists attractions, most of Costa Ricans do not speak English. They still would try to help in any way sometimes even resorting to lively mime performances supplementing verbal explanations. If you make an effort to speak or say some words in Spanish, it will be a great way to Thank them for their kindness.

However, Costa Rican Spanish has some specific flavor which might confuse language translation apps. With a dialect as relaxed as their lifestyle, local language is full of slang and idioms. Here is the short list of some Tico expressions.

Pura Vida [poo-rah-vee-dah] – literally means pure life; can be used as a reference to anything that is good, or as a greeting or acknowledgement. This phrase is the unofficial motto of Costa Rica

Tuanis [too-ah-nees] – cool, great; synonym to the phrase pura vida

Mala nota [mah-lah-no-tah] – uncool, not good, what a pain; used to describe a person’s character or to indicated that a job poorly done. (Que mala nota! = What a bad person!)

Mae [mah-eh] – a pal, buddy, dude

Tico [tee-ko] – Costa Rican; feminine tica

Chepe [cheh-peh] – San José

Soda [so-dah] – a small, family-run restaurant. Read this article about how to order food at soda.

Pulpería [pool-peh-ree-ah] – a small cornet store, mini market

Chinamo [chee-nah-mo] – a street stand

Güila [gwee-lah] – a girl (despite its meaning in Mexico)

Chante [chahn-the] – a place to stay, house

Salado [sah-lad-do] – unlucky (Es un salado = He is very unlucky)

Quiubo [kee-oo-bo] – what’s up?

For more Tico expressions, street slang, and country-specific vocabulary check these resources:

Some basic words and phrases in Spanish:

¿Cómo se llama usted? [ko-mo seh-yah-mah oos-ted] – what’s your name?

Me llamo… [mey yah-mo…] – my name is…

Mucho gusto [moo-choh goose toe] – pleased to meet you

¿Cómo esta usted? [ko-mo eestah oost-ted] – how are you?

Muy bien, gracias [mooy bee-ehn grah-see-as] – very well, thank you

¿Y usted? [ee oos-ted] – and you?

Si/no [see/no] – yes/no

De acuerdo [de a-kwer-doe] –  Ok

Por favor [pore-fah-vore] – please

Muchas gracias [moo-chas grah-see-as] – thank you (very much)

Con mucho gusto [con moo-cho-goose-toe] – you’re welcome

Con permiso, disculpe [con pair-mee-so] – excuse me

Perdóneme [pair-dohn-a-meh] – pardon me

Disculpe [dee-skool-peh] – I am sorry

Buenos dias [bway-nohs-dee-ahs] – good morning

Buenas tardes [bway-nahs-tar-dess] – good afternoon

Buenas noches [bway-nahs-no-chess] – good evening

Seńor/seńora [senyohr/senyohra] – mr./mrs.

¿Habla usted inglés? [ah-blah-oosted-inglehs] – do you speak English?

No hablo espańol [no ahbloh espahnyol] – I do not speak Spanish

No entiendo [no en-tee-en-doh] – I don’t understand

Entiendo [en-tee-en-doh] – I understand

No sé [no she] – I don’t know

¿Dónde está…? [don-deh-es-tah] – where is…?

Izquierda [iss-key-er-dah] – left

Derecha [dare-eh-chah] – right

Lejos [lay-joes] – far

Cerca [sehr-ka] – near

Abierto [ah-bee-her-toe] – open

Cerrado [sehra-doe] – closed

¿Qué hora tiene? [ke-ora tee-eh-ney] – what time is it?

¿Cómo? [ko-moe] – how?

¿Cuándo? [koo-and-o] – when?

¿Cuánto cuesta? [koo-anto koo-ehstah] – how much (does it cost)?

Quiero comprar… [kee-see-e-rah kom-prahr] – I want to buy…

¿Por qué? [pore-keh] – why?

¿Quién? [kee-yen] – who?

Estoy enfermo [es-toy en fehr-moh] – I am sick

Cuidado [koo-weedah-doe] – caution

¡Ayuda! / ¡Auxilio! [ah-yoo-dah / owk-see-lee-oh] – help!





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