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HomeArts & CultureLearning Spanish in Costa Rica for expats and tourists: Part 10

Learning Spanish in Costa Rica for expats and tourists: Part 10

You can’t call yourself fluent in Costa Rican Spanish unless you understand its slang.

Over the past several weeks, we have introduced you, dear reader, to tiquismos and costarriqueñismos as part of our “Tico Talk” series. Check out the previous installments here.

Tico Talk for expats and tourists: Part 10

Carrebarro: A shameless person. Sinvergüenza or descarado/a mean the same.

Color: Literally is a color like red, blue, etc. but in Costa Rica can also mean shame. ¡Qué color! Is a common expression here.

Herramientas: Literally are tools but in Tico slang this word means a knife, fork and spoon. The more common Spanish words are cubiertos or utensilios. 

Marimba, faja de tiros or los podridos: All are sang for teeth. Los dientes is the “proper” word for teeth.

Metérsele el diablo a alguien or ponerse chiva: to get angry or lose control. Enojarse, ponerse bravo or enfadarse all mean the same.

Palo: Literally means a stick but in Costa Rica it is synonymous with tree. Arbol is the more universal word for a tree.

Ponerle: To work hard or bust one’s butt working. Trabajar como una hormiga (to work like an ant) is the same thing. Trabajar duro, fuerte or arduamente are more common ways to express this idea. 

¡Qué chiva!: Means “how great!” or “how cool!”

Volar ojo: Is to watch someone or something. In Spanish class, you might have learned the verbs mirar, observar or ver.

Yodazo: A drink of coffee. Voy a echarme un yodazo (I am going to have a drink of coffee).

Tiquismos or Costa Rican expressions of the week

Levantar un falso: To slander of defame someone. Calumniar and difamar are synonyms.

Hablar por los codos: Means to talk incessantly. (The literal translation is to talk through one’s elbows.) Hablar como lora hambrienta means the same (Literally translated, “To talk like a hungry parrot” — ha!).

Christopher Howard has been conducting monthly relocation/retirement tours and writing retirement guidebooks for over 30 years. See

He is also the author of the one-of-a-kind bestselling, “Guide to Costa Rican Spanish,” that can be purchased through Amazon.

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