San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

An Insult Index: How Ticos Berate Each Other

I didn’t mean to do it, honestly. My intention was to publish a list of offensive words and expressions to be wary of, as well as a list of gracious words and expressions, good for everyday use. Clearly, I was deluded. I discovered hundreds of offensive words, more than I could ever put into one article.

As a result, the following is a list of some of the many ways Ticos have of berating each  other – though I have left out the X-rated stuff. Note that these words vary from one Latin American country to another, and what may be relatively harmless here might be an “F” word elsewhere, and vice versa.

The verb joder, for example, is extremely vulgar in some countries but relatively mild in Costa Rica, where it means “to bother” or “to bug.” From it comes the past participle jodido/a, meaning “messed up” or perhaps “screwed”:

¡No jodas! (Don’t bother [me]! Stop messing around!)

Mi carro está jodido. (My car is screwed up.)

Fregar actually means “to rub” or “to scrub,” but it has a similar meaning to joder, only a bit milder. From it come the words fregado/a and fregadura. Costa Ricans tend to use fregado/a but not the other forms. They also use it to indicate illness:

¡Qué fregadura! (What a disaster!)

Estoy fregado. (I feel lousy.)

Other verb offensives include:

¡Cállate! (Shut up!)

¡Cierra el hocico! (Shut your muzzle!)

¡Maldito/a sea! (Damn it!)

¡Vete al diablo! (Go to hell!)

¡Vete pa’l carajo! (Go to hell!)

¿Qué diablos te pasa? (What the hell is wrong with you?)

Dar asco a (to be disgusting to), e.g., ¡Me das asco! (You disgust me!)

No poder ver a (literally, to not be able to see; to be unable to stand), e.g.,

Aquella mujer, ¡no la puedo ver! (That woman, I can’t stand her!)

Quedar mal a (to let down, to come out looking bad), e.g., El quedó mal a Maritza.(He let Maritza down.)

Verbs aside, most insults take the form of nouns and adjectives. Hoping no one will use them irresponsibly, here are just some of the nasty names and expressions in use. Many can be used as either nouns (n) or adjectives (adj). Some may be used as exclamations (excl). Remember that to use an adjective or noun to describe someone in Spanish, it is first necessary to decide whether you should use ser or estar, that is, whether or not it is an innate characteristic or a product of circumstances:

¡Estás salado! (You’re out of luck!)

Eres salado. (You’re an unlucky person.)

Note also that the translation of these offenses is approximate. There does not exist a one-on-one relationship to English insults.

agüevado/a (adj) – bummed out

agüevazón (n) – a drag

asqueroso/a (adj) – disgusting

bocón/a (n, adj) – big/blabbermouth

bravo/a (adj) – fierce, angry

bruto/a (n, adj) – brute, stupid

cabrón/a (n) – (literally, big goat) bastard,

SOB (extremely vulgar)

car’e’barro (n) – mud-face

chanchada (n) – something disgusting

chancho/a (n) – pig, slob

chiflado/a (n, adj) – crazy, nuts

chiva (adj) (literally, female goat) bad-humored, angry

chivo (n) – (literally, male goat) gigolo

chocho/a (n, adj) – crazy, messed up

chulo/a (n) – ruffian, pimp

chusma (n) – riffraff

cochinada (n) – something disgusting

cochino/a (n, adj) pig, slob

cursi (n, adj) – pretentious, silly

descarado/a (n, adj) – insolent, rude

desgraciado/a (n, adj) – good-for-nothing

don Nadie (n) – (literally, “Sir No One”) a nobody

fiera (n) – hothead

fisgón/a (n, adj) – snoop, busybody

furris (adj) – horrible, ugly

grosero/a (n, adj) – crude, rude

hijo de perra (n) – SOB

jueputa (n, excl) – (variation of hijo de puta) SOB

loco de remate (adj) – crazy as a loon

majadero/a (n, adj) – bossy, demanding, pain in the neck

mala ficha (n) – delinquent

mala gente – bad person

maldito/a (n, adj) – damned

mandinga (n) – sissy

menso/a (n, adj) – stupid

muerto/a de hambre (n) – an opportunist, a person who tries to take everything for himself

mujeriego (n) – womanizer

mujerzuela (n) – whore, slut

necio/a (n, adj) – stupid

pachuco/a (n, adj) – street person

patán (n) – thug

pendejo/a (n, adj) – jerk

perra (n) – (female dog) bitch

perro (n) – (male dog) womanizer

pillo (n) – scoundrel

pinta (n) – scoundrel

polada (n) – something in bad taste

polo/a (n, adj) – uncouth, hick

porquería (n) – something disgusting

puta (n, adj) – whore, slut

rudo/a (n, adj) coarse

sanguijuela (n) – leech

sinvergüenza (n) – (literally, without shame) SOB

soberbio/a (n, adj) – arrogant

tontería (n) – stupid thing

tonto/a (n, adj) – stupid

tortero/a (n, adj) – goof-up, screw-off

viejo verde (n) – dirty old man

yuyo (n) – (literally, foot fungus) pain in the neck

zaguate (n) – (literally, mongrel) womanizer

zorra (n) – (female fox) a fast woman

Some exclamations:

¡Carajo! – Damn it!

¡Demonios! – Damn it!

¡Diablos! – Damn it!

¡Jueputa! – Damn it!

¡Maldición! – Damn it!

¡Patrañas! – BS!

¡Qué asco! – How disgusting!

¡Rayos! – Damn it!

These are certainly not all of them, but they are enough! Next time, we’ll look instead at terms of endearment.


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