Your gear shift box

  • Batir barro – is to take a 4-wheel vehicle off road in muddy conditions. Batir barro literally means to beat or stir mud like you would beat an egg or cake batter.
  • Cachete – is a cheek but can also refer to a buttocks.
  • Como pulpería del pueblo – to be well-stocked like a mom and pop corner store. This phrase also refers to a woman with outstanding physical attributes.
  • Cuatro Plumas – slang for the Cacique brand of guaro which is type of local liquor made from sugarcane. Cuatro Plumas literally means four feathers and refers to the indian’s headdress on the label of a bottle of Cacique.
  • Doc – short for doctor just as in English
  • Echarse un tamarindo – to drink an alcoholic beverage
  • Gato casero – someone who performs an inside job (robbery)
  • Hospi – short for hospital
  • La caja de cambios – literally means the gear shit box of a vehicle but in Costa Rican it is slang your lungs
  • Lágrima – a tear but it can also be a rock or boulder.
  • Llorar a moco tendido – is to cry inconsolably
  • Puñal – is a knife but is also used to describe a person who is a backstabber.
  • Recetar – is to prescribe medicine but it can also mean to deal drugs or sentence someone to period in jail

cacique guaro cuatro plumas

An A-Z guide to Costa Rican football slang

Watch the World Cup final like a Tico

The final mejenga (“match”) of the World Cup is set for Sunday afternoon. While La Sele (“Costa Rica’s national team”) won’t be playing, you can still watch the game like a Tico with our handy Spanish guide to football slang in Costa Rica.

That way you’ll know exactly what to say when Germany’s Miroslav Klose scores on ajupita (“header”) or when Lionel Messi makes the game-winner with a chilena (“bicycle kick”). Expect a lot of great plays from all the cracks (“star players”) on the field. And don’t forget to scream ¡Lo pintó de rojo! (“Give him a red card”) at your TV if a caballo (“a rough player”) makes a dirty play.

Is that a piscinazo? Netherlands’forward Arjen Robben vies with Costa Rica crack Cristian Gamboa, during La Sele‘s quarterfinal loss in the World Cup on July 5. AFP


  • Abrir la cancha (“To open the field”) – To kick the ball towards the sidelines to make the playing field wider in order to better guard a team’s attack.
  • Acariciar el esférico / la bola (“To caress the ball”) — To kick the ball with a gentle touch; to have great ball control.
    • Ex. Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best players in the world because he can acariciar el esférico so well.
  • Ariete — A forward; a striker.
  • Arquero — A goalie.
  • Barrida – A slide tackle.
  • Bicicleta (“bicycle”) — When the player makes a distracting movement with one leg, but takes the ball with the other.
  • Caballo (“horse”) – A rough player.
  • Cancerbero – A goalie; named after “Cerberus,” the mythological 3-headed dog that guarded the entrance to the underworld.
  • Chilena – A bicycle kick.
    • Ex: “A chilena by Raúl Jiménez saved Mexico’s life during World Cup qualifying.”
  • Comerse la cancha (“To eat up the field”) – When a player is running up and down the field the whole match with little time to rest.
  • Crack – A great player.
  • El uno-dos (“The one-two”) — A play where one player passes the ball to a teammate and he returns it immediately to the same player.
  • Jupa/jupita — A header.


  • La voló — To kick the ball over the goal.
  • La Sele/La Tricolor — Costa Rica’s national team.
  • Le dió al mundo (“To kick the earth”): To kick the ground instead of the ball.
  • Le dió con la de palo — To kick the ball with the weaker leg.
  • Mamón (“Sucker”) — A player who takes the ball and runs with it to the opposite goal without making a single pass to any of his teammates. Then the player immediately loses the ball on the other end; a ballhog.
  • Mano a mano (“Hand-to-hand combat”): When a player faces the goalie one-on-one.
  • Marco — Goal.
  • Mejenga – Used for pick-up football matches, but also applies to any match.
  • Milpa (“a cornfield”) — Offsides.
  • Patea más un pollito/perico en una bolsa — When a player kicks a ball too weakly to score.
  • ¡Píntelo! (“Paint him”) – Give the player a yellow card or red card for a foul.
  • Piscinazo — A dive.
    • Ex. “The Netherlands’ Arjen Robben is notorious for his piscinazos.”
  • Planchetazo – To kick an opponent using the studs of one’s cleats.
    • Ex. “Portugal’s Pepe is a caballo who has committed some infamous plachetazos.”
  • Repartir bizcocho — To play roughly.


  • Sacar agua del barco/bote (“To remove water from the boat”) — When a defender kicks the ball in any direction just to keep it far from the goal.
  • Salir a cazar mariposas (“To catch butterflies”) — When the goalie jumps to catch a ball and fails.
    • Ex. “A compilation of goalies saliendo a cazar mariposas.”
  • Sombrero — To pass the ball over the opponent’s head; also known as “baño.”
  • Se echó la pata al hombro — When a player misses the ball and swings his leg in the air.
  • Tacos — Football shoes, also cleats.
  • Tapada/tapadón (“covered”) – A great save by a goalie.
    • Ex. “Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas made had some great tapadas on Lionel Messi when the two met in Spain’s league.”
  • Taquito – A heel pass.
    • Ex: “Costa Rica scored its first-ever World Cup goal on a taquito from Claudio Jara to Juan Cayasso against Scotland in 1990.”
  • (Un) Túnel — To pass the ball through an opponent’s legs; called “nut megging” or a “panna” in English.
    • Ex. Germany’s Miroslav Klose uses un túnel to get by a Swedish defender.
  • Volar lima — A rough play.
  • Zaguero – The defense.
  • Zapatazo – A powerful kick.


  • Andar con el ruedo suelto is to have the runs or diarrhea.
  • Blanco  is slang for cigarette.
  • Carbonear -s to add fuel to the fire. Echar leña al fuego means the same thing.
  • Champú  literally means shampoo but is also refers to person who doesn’t have good hygiene.
  • Empericado is to be “high” on cocaine. Perico is slang for cocaine (cocaina).
  • Estar en cola de venado means that something is difficult.
  • Fiebrazo is a soccer fanatic.
  • Fofo is the nickname for Rodolfo (Rudolph)
  • Miércoles literally means Wednesday but is a less offensive way to express mierda which is “shit” in Spanish.
  • No arrugarse is to not back down in the face of something.
  • Pame is the nickname for the woman’s name Pamela
  • Revolcarse means to have sex
  • Trono is a throne or toilet just as in English.
  • Vapulear to hit or give someone a bearing. Dar una paliza is a synonym.
  • Volar coco is to think a lot. Coco is slang for head but really means coconut. We also say volar jupa.

Así hablan los ticos


  • Boli – is short for bolígrafo or ball point pen.
  • Chochosca – is money. Harina is another slang word for money in Costa Rica
  • Enfiebrar – to become a fanatic of something like soccer
  • Estar como hormiga en tapa de dulce – to be very happy
  • Fajarse – is to hit someone with a belt or faja.
  • Jupa de agus – is a flash flood. Cabeza de agua is the right term.
  • La pecosa – another name for soccer ball. Chocobola is also slang for soccer ball.
  • Ordeñar – literally means to milk a cow but it can also be used to extract any kind of liquid.
  • Palmos – are dead people. Muertos is more common.
  • Pedir cacao – is to ask for forgiveness
  • Pulseador(a) – someone who works very hard. Breateador/a is also used to mean the same thing.
  • Turri – short for the town of Turriabla

Here is another reason to learn Spanish if you retire in Costa Rica

New research reveals that bilingualism has a positive effect on cognition later in life. Findings published in Annals of Neurology, a journal of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society, show that individuals who speak two or more languages, even those who acquired the second language in adulthood, may slow down cognitive decline from aging.

Bilingualism is thought to improve cognition and delay dementia in older adults. While prior research has investigated the impact of learning more than one language, ruling out reverse causality has proven difficult. The crucial question is whether people improve their cognitive functions through learning new languages or whether those with better baseline cognitive functions are more likely to become bilingual.

“Our study is the first to examine whether learning a second language impacts cognitive performance later in life while controlling for childhood intelligence,” says lead author Thomas Bak from the Centre for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh.

For the current study, researchers relied on data from the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936, comprised of 835 native speakers of English who were born and living in the area of Edinburgh, Scotland. The participants were given an intelligence test in 1947 at age 11 years and retested in their early 70s, between 2008 and 2010. Two hundred and sixty two participants reported to be able to communicate in at least one language other than English. Of those, 195 learned the second language before age 18, 65 thereafter.

Findings indicate that those who spoke two or more languages had significantly better cognitive abilities compared to what would be expected from their baseline. The strongest effects were seen in general intelligence and reading. The effects were present in those who acquired their second language early as well as late.

“The Lothian Birth Cohort offers a unique opportunity to study the interaction between bilingualism and cognitive aging, taking into account the cognitive abilities predating the acquisition of a second language” concludes Bak. “These findings are of considerable practical relevance. Millions of people around the world acquire their second language later in life. Our study shows that bilingualism, even when acquired in adulthood, may benefit the aging brain.”

After reviewing the study, Alvaro Pascual-Leone, an associate editor for Annals of Neurology and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. said, “The epidemiological study by Dr. Bak and colleagues provides an important first step in understanding the impact of learning a second language and the aging brain. This research paves the way for future causal studies of bilingualism and cognitive decline prevention.”

By the John Wiley & Sons, Inc., news service