Guaria de Osa, Rainforest Ocean Discovery Centre and Enthnobotanical Gardens

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Tico Spanish Words and Phrases

The Osa Peninsula

General Information


Costa Rica

Some Tico Spanish/American English Words and Phrases

by Alexander del Sol, The Southern Costa Rica Guide 2000

Note: Tico is the name Costa Ricans call themselves, their language, culture, and so on. Whatever your background (and attitude), a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish will prove to be very helpful. Despite what any person or book may tell you, most Ticos (Costa Ricans) do not speak English or any other foreign language. If you don't speak Spanish already, you would be well advised to invest in a good phrase book and study it before you get here. The following list will be helpful.

Tico Spanish
Although you may be familiar with the Spanish language, Ticos have their own special dialect, like all Latin American countries. Some of the usage here can be very different from say, Mexican or Puerto Rican Spanish, enough to cause you some confusion even if you are fluent in another dialect. This short section is here to help you deal with these differences, give you a few words and phrases in case you need them quick, and also be able to utter some appropriate 'dichos' (sayings, or slang phrases). Some words and phrases you may not find defined elsewhere.

Tico Spanish/American English

A la parilla - grilled

A la plancha - sautéed

Adios! - often used as 'hello' when passing someone

Agua dulce - a drink made with pure natural cane sugar

Al ajíllo - in garlic

A su gusto - to your liking

Así es la vida - that's life

Boca - snack (look for the 'Boca' bars)

Buenas! - basic greeting (leaving out 'días' or 'tardes')

Buena nota! - ok, excellent

Cabina - a room (especially in a hotel)

Caro - car ('coche' is not used)

Casado - a 'married' lunch or dinner plate in restaurants (a combination of typical foods)

Cien metros - one city block (literally 100 meters)

Con mucho gusto - 'you're welcome' (more hearty than 'de nada')

Con permiso - 'excuse me' or if you bump into someone you say - 'perdón'

Con toda la pata - "I've got it all together"

Cuanto cuesta? - 'how much does it cost?'

Cuidado - careful

De verdad?! - really?!

Déjame pensarlo - let me think about it

El campo - the countryside

El servicio - a polite term for 'toilet'

Está bien - 'it's ok.' ('ok' is used a lot)

Finca - ranch, farm, or both

Fresco (refresco) - a cold, non-alcoholic drink

Fresco natural - a natural fruit or powered drink

Fresco - cool, as in air temperature

Gaseosa - soft drink (carbonated soda)

Gato/a - cat, of course, yet also refers to a woman or man with light-colored eyes (blue, green, gray)

Hágame el favor! - 'do me the favor' but often means 'give me a break!'

Hay campo? - is there room (space)?

Hay paso? - 'is there passage' or 'can I get through?

Hongos - mushrooms (also fungus)

La bomba - common word for a gas station rather than 'gasolinera'

La lancha - ferry boat

Lanta ponchada - flat tire

Lo que sea - whatever

Más pa'cá - closer ('más para acá' contracted)

Más para allá - farther

Me caye bien - it literally means "you fall well with me" but it is used basically to say "I like you"

Mi amor - my love (used by both sexes as a friendly form of address)

No importa - it's not important; doesn't matter

No me digas! - 'don't tell me!' or 'no way!' or 'you don't say!'

Ojo! - watch out!

Panga - a small motorboat

Paño - bath towel ('toalla' is rarely used)

Para llevar - carry-out (food)

Pick-up - a pick-up truck (and nothing else…)

Pulperia - a general corner grocery store

Pura Vida - literally, a happy 'pure life' - an 'all-is-well' statement used as an expression of approval or even as a greeting

Qué dicha! - 'what good luck! or 'fantastic!'

Quebrada - a stream or brook

Rancho or Ranchito - a traditional structure, usually with a thatched-palm roof

Refresco - a cold drink

Repuestos - parts (for cars, machines)

Salado - too bad; tough luck

Se falló - 'it failed' (for slang, you can use 'se hodió')

Soda - small restaurant or diner or café or lunch counter

Tickete - ticket ( 'boleto' is not used much.)

Twanys! - 'everything's great! (a street slang)

Upe! - anybody home? (instead of knocking; used manly in the countryside at people's houses)

Vos - you (informal, equivalent to 'tu')

Ya me voy - I'm leaving now

Ya voy! - I'm coming!

Ya! - done, already, now!


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