Tico Talk: 8 Words You'll Hear From Locals In Costa Rica.


Like every country the locals have some terms used only native to Costa Rica. Here are 10 common words you'll hear along your journey.


  1. ¡Que galleta! (english: "What a cookie") This is a complement. The meaning of this word goes back to the time of the homemade bread industry, when the biscuit was considered ” a special item, superior to bread. If you are considered a cookie, it is because you have a quality.

  2. Diez con hueco (english: "10 with a hole") This term means cheating or fraud, alludes to the way the Central Bank had to devalue the coins, which were perforated to make them useless. That is why it is said that if they gave you a 10-cent coin with a hole (English translation “ten with a hole”), it was a scam, as it lacked commercial value.

  3. Tuanis: According to the Royal Spanish Academy, this term refers to something of excellent quality.

  4. No hay tu tía: If a situation or thing cannot be fixed or has no alternatives, in Costa Rica we say that “there is not tu tía (phonetically in English translation “your aunt”). This expression comes from the times of the Spanish colonization, when the original immigrants from Spain used an ointment based on aloe called “atutía“, to which they attributed conditions to cure almost everything, and that once they arrived in Costa Rica it became hard to obtain, so they said “here there is no atutía”.

  5. Mae: It is used to refer to a person who is easy to deceive, although it is also an expression used to refer to any friend, it still has a somewhat derogatory meaning. It was used to indicate to the apprentices that they had to squeeze (hammer) the soles on an iron plate to make them more resistant. Many of these apprentices were taken to joke when making them hammer rubber heels that did not hold the desired consistency, reason why the term became the reason for mockery for the ignorance before the work that was requested of them.

  6. Mozote: This word means dumb or slimy, is also the name of a plant that is used to prepare soft drinks and that gives off a slime similar to that of flaxseed, reason why the analogy is used to name silly or foolish people. Depending on the context in which it is used, it can also mean that a person is simple, rude or peasant.

  7. Tapis: This term is used as a synonym for an alcoholic or a person who is accustomed to drinking frequently, as well as for calling any liquor.

  8. Vara (english: Rod) This word that is used as a means of measure, in Costa Rica also means lie or liar. And as some merchants sought to take advantage of the difference between both measures, those clients who noticed the deception said “Stop cutting the rod”, from where the expression was reduced to saying the only rod. So on your next visit to this land full of “Pure Life“, do not let them make you accept a “vara”. You better start practicing these typical expressions of Costa Rica, so that you do not want to be taken for a “merozoite”.

Thanks to the CR News webpage for this great list of words and explanations.


Pura Vida

La Casa Azul

Playa Tambor Costa Rica


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