San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Learn These Words and ‘Llévela Suave’

As promised last time (TT, July 4), here are 55 more costarriqueñismos:

1. coco: bald, though it is used for “head,” as well. It also means “bogeyman.”

2. concho: rustic, without manners, sullen.

3. ¡déle!: expression used to ask someone to go ahead or, in a fight, to throw a punch.

4. dolor de huevos: We say “pain in the neck”; they say “pain in the balls.”

5. espeso: Its standard meaning is “thick,” as in thick gravy. It is slang for “difficult” or “problematic.” It’s interesting that the word peso in Spanish means “weight,” and pesado means “heavy,” literally, but also “dull,” “tiresome” or “clumsy,” while pésame is an expression of condolence and pesadilla is a nightmare.

6. fachento: sloppily or badly dressed. It can also mean “snob.”

7. fondillo: rear end.

8. frito: out of luck. It literally means “fried.”

9. furris: not very good.

10. gato: literally, “cat,” but it also refers to a person with green or sometimes blue eyes.

11. goma: literally, “rubber” (the substance) or “eraser.” In slang, it means “hangover.”

12. guachimán: This comes from the English “watchman.” It usually refers to the guards who watch cars in the street.

13. güila: child, “kid”; also used among friends like our “dude”; and among guys as slang for a young woman.

14. hablar paja: literally, “to speak straw.” It means “to speak of nothing.” The expression pura paja is like our “bullshit.”

15. harina: It means “flour,” and, like our “bread,” is slang for “money.”

16. hijo de papi/papá: someone born into a rich family and who has been given everything.

17. jalar: literally, “to pull,” but used in some interesting ways as slang. It means “to be going together” (as a couple). Jalarse la torta (literally, “to pull the problem”) means “to get pregnant when unmarried.” Moreover, Costa Ricans will often shout “¡Jale!” to say “Get out of here!”

18. jugársela: to be able to handle something or to take a risk. Jugar means “to play.”

19. jupa: head. Jupón, or “big head,” means “stubborn or closed person.”

20. limpio: literally, “clean,” but, not surprisingly, slang for “broke,” as in out of money.

21. luna: This means “moon,” but, as in English, it is used to refer to moods. De luna means “in a bad mood.” Estar en la luna (“to be on the moon”) means “to be spaced out.” And, of course, the word lunático needs no explanation.

22. llevarla suave: This translates literally as “to carry it soft.” It means “to take it easy.” By the same token, simply saying suave means “easy” or “have patience.”

23. macho, machito: In Costa Rica, this does not mean what you think. It refers to a person with light skin and hair, although macho also means simply “male.”

24. mandarina: literally, “tangerine.” It’s rather hilarious that it is slang for a defective car or “lemon.”

25. mejenga: a neighborhood or local soccer game.

26. mocoso: Mocos means “mucus” or “snot.” A mocoso is a brat or a snot-nosed kid.

27. monchar: to eat. La moncha is “hunger,” and la monchis refers to post-marijuana munchies.

28. mosca muerta: literally, “dead fly.” It refers to a person who counterfeits innocence or weakness.

29. mota: marijuana.

30. nota: This means either “note” or “grade” (in the sense of academic evaluation) in standard Spanish. In slang, it means “style” or “vibe.” Someone or something can be buena nota or mala nota.

31. ojo or ojo al Cristo: Ojo means “eye.” There is also the expression Pele (peel) el ojo. All three expressions mean “watch out.”

32. pachanga: party.

33. estar detrás del palo: literally, “to be behind the tree.” In slang, it means “to be unable to understand anything.”

34. paracaidista: party crasher (literally, “parachutist”).

35. pata: This word, which means “paw,” is not slang in itself, but it is the origin of many colorful expressions: mala pata (bad luck), pata caliente (a person who never stays home), patas arriba (disordered, in a mess), con toda la pata (great, in good health), estirar (to stretch), la pata (to die) and meter (put in) la pata (to commit an indiscretion, “to blow it”).

36. pendejo: cowardly or silly.

37. picaflor: literally, “it pierces flower.” It is a word for “hummingbird” that is not used in Costa Rica, but in slang refers to a man who goes from one woman to another. Other words for this are perro (dog) and mujeriego (from mujer, woman).

38. pinta: a strange person, in a suspicious sense.

39. platero: a person extremely interested in making money.

40. polo: hick. A polada is a hickish action.

41. ponerse las pilas: literally, “to put in ones batteries.” It means “to get going,” “to make more of an effort.”

42. roco: old.

43. rojo, rojito: a ¢1,000 bill, so-called because it is red.

44. rubia: literally, “blonde,” but in slang it means “beer.”

45. salado: literally, “salty.” It is slang for “unlucky.” In fact, there is a superstition that it is unlucky to have anything from the sea in the house.

46. soplado: very fast.

47. ¡soque!: hurry up!

48. tanate: large amount. It can also mean

“big trouble.”

49. tanda: binge (liquor). It also refers to a

showing, for example of a movie.

50. Tiquicia: Costa Rica (because of the

appellation “Tico”).

51. torta: In standard Spanish, this means

“round cake,” like our word “torte.” It is

also used to indicate an open-faced omelet

(because it is round). Colloquially, it means

“problem” or “boo-boo.”

52. tuanis: wonderful, “cool.”

53. tucán: a ¢5,000 bill, because it has a

picture of a toucan on it.

54. viejo verde: lecher, “dirty old man.”

55. zarpe: the last drink of the night.


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