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HomeLanguage LessonsA Crash Course To Costa Rica Slang and Expressions

A Crash Course To Costa Rica Slang and Expressions

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

Maybe you already speak Spanish. If that is true, you probably know that words and expressions differ between Spanish-speaking countries in the form of slang.

It is these small nuances that add depth to a language and reflect the complexity of the written and spoken word.

Costa Rica, like any other Spanish-speaking country, has its own set of vocabulary and phrases that are unique to its people and culture.

Familiarizing yourself with some of these words and phrases is a good way to prepare you for a trip to Costa Rica.

In addition, understanding Costa Rica’s slang will allow you to interact and engage with the locals on a deeper level.

Take a look at the following common Costa Rica slang words and phrases

1. Avioncito: A dragon fly. The correct word is libélula

2. Chotear: To make fun of someone: Burlarse de is the correct Spanish verb.

3. Chupaplatos: One’s index finger or dedo índice actually means index finger.

4. Clavar el pico: To fall asleep or quedarse dormido/a

5. Clete or bici: Bicycle or bike. The correct Spanish word is bicicleta.

6. Cortarle el rabo a alguien: To fire someone from a job. Despedir is more correct.

7. Cuadrar: To like. A José le cuadra la música. Joe likes music.

8. El Monstruo: The nickname of Costa Rica’s Saprrisa soccer team.

9. Estar con toda la pata: To be in good health

10. Gato: A person with blue eyes.

11. Techo or torre: Roof or someone’s head

12. Guato: A dog.  Zaguate, peludo and gua gua are also used for dog here.

13. Tirarse al agua: To take the plunge (figurative)

14. Tener a pura té de tilo: To be nervous. Estar nervioso is also used.

15. Tener guaro vaquero: To be a mean drunken person

16. ¡Zapatero a sus zapatos!: Get to work! ¡Manos a la obra! means the same.

Costa Rican Expressions or Tiquismos

1. Agarrarle a alguien con las manos en la masa: To be caught red handed

2. Ha pasado mucha agua debajo de ese molino: Water over the dam or bridge or  something that is over and done with,

3. Regarse las bilis: To get mad. Enojarse and ponerse bravo/a are more correct terms.

4. Irse de jupa: To fall head first. Jupa means ‘head’ in Costa Rican slang.

5. Irse de espaldas or irse de trasero:  is to fall backwards.

For more Spanish slang see Christopher Howard’s “Guide to Costa Rica Spanish” on sale at

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

He has a #1 relocation/retirement blog at:,  is also the author of the  forthcoming 18th edition of “New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica — the official guide to relocation”  and the  one-of-a-kind bestselling e-book, “Guide to Costa Rican Spanish,” that can be purchased through Amazon.

Christopher’s most recent publication  is –“The Costa Rica Chronicles from 1980 on:  the good, bad and ugly people and places”— available through and soon  from

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