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Common Costa Rican Phrases

Common Costa Rican Phrases

Before you visit Costa Rica or any Spanish speaking country, it is a good idea to learn about the local vocabulary. This includes Costa Rican phrases.

Here are just a few of the most important items of Costa Rican slang to keep in mind while visiting or living here.

¡Pura vida!

Pura Vida translates to “Pure Life”.  You will find it plastered on signs, menus, clothing and almost any souvenir within the country. It is a positive phrase about seizing the moment and enjoying life.

You will hear it being used as a greeting, in the middle of a conversation or after someone has said or heard something that is deemed exciting. It is a phrase that has a “one-size-fits-all” usage. This is the most common of the Costa Rican phrases.

Usted

Even if you think you’re pretty close with someone in Costa Rica, it’s still better to refer to him or her as usted. In fact,  is rarely used. Instead, Costa Ricans use the informal vos.

Perhaps you’re unfamiliar with vos, but it’s similar to  very common in Central and South American countries. Conjugations using vos are a bit different but you can easily learn them!

Tuanis

This phrase means “good,” “cool” or just shows excitement about anything. If someone says something cool or interesting, you can simply respond with “¡tuanis!

Mae

This word means “dude” and can refer to a man or woman. As you can most likely guess, this term is reserved for use between close friends. Don’t call someone you just met in Costa Rica “mae.” 

Tico(a)

This the common name for Costa Ricans.  It is widely used and is not offensive in any way.

Estar de goma

This phrase means to have a hangover. If you were to drink too many beers the night before, you could say hoy, yo estoy de goma.

Suave

If you say this to another person in an argument, it means “calm down.” If you and a friend get into a heated exchange, you can just say “¡Suave, mae!” which means “Take it easy!”

Al chile

This phrase expresses surprise or shock in response to what someone says. It translates to “Really?” or “Are you serious?”

These are just a few of the many Costa Rican phrases that you will hear. Spend enough time in the country and you’ll learn a lot more!

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