Category Archives: Spanish phrases

Start Speaking Today! Learn essential phrases, cultural insights and travel tips that you can find in our Guide to Costa Rican Spanish…

To Be All Nerves

  • A todo gas is to do something at full speed
  • Andar de mano sudada is to have a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Cerchas – beams in the ceiling of a house
  • Cleta – bicycle. Bicicleta is the correct word for bicycle
  • Empuchado/a is a diligent or hard working person
  • Jamonear is to hit someone
  • Jupón/a is a stubborn person
  • lo or la fueron is to have fired someone from a job
  • La peli is a movie or flick
  • Más peligroso que un rifle chocho is to be very dangerous
  • Merula is slang for a woman’s makeup
  • Parecer un bistec de 5 pesos, solo nervios is to be nervous or all nerves
  • Pichuleo is an odd job; Salvar la tanda is to save the day
  • Se fue de pollo or se fue en todo is to screw up or be deceived
  • Tirarse a la pista means not to hesitate or not think about something twice

A Shameless Person

Bien pellizcado/a is an astute person
Cascarudo/a is a shameless person
Cletero/a is a bicyclist
Echar patas literally means to sprout feet, but is used when an object is stolen.
Estar de manteles largos is to celebrate one’s birthday
Guindo is type of gully or ravine
La cultura del guaro refers to the widespread consumption of liquor in Costa Rica. Guaro is a sugarcane-based liquor
Llenazo is an event that a lot of people attend or that is a complete success
Pelagatos is a useless or insignificant person
Platinazo is the temporary closing of a famous bridge “la Platina” that has been plagued with structural problems over the years.
La Refor is short for la reforma which is the country’s main prison.
Tamarindear is to drink liquor
Topador is a person who sells stolen merchandise or a fence
Voladera de bala is a shootout with guns


To be alert

Agüevazón is a type of letdown or a feeling of disappointment.
Arañitas literally means small spiders, but can refer to a type of varicose veins.
Ateniense is a person who from the mountain town of Atenas
Bajarle el humo a alguien means to put people in their place.
Caite is slang for shoe. Cachos is also used at times.
Chocosca is slang for money. The terms harina and mosca are also used here.
Dar cátedra is to teach someone a lesson figuratively
Domingueño/a is someone from Santo Domingo, Heredia.
Estar a puro té de tilo is to be nervous
Estar ojo al cristo is to stay alert. Pelar el ojo is also used to mean the same thing.
Guarera is a drunken spree
Irse de pollo is to do something stupid or to be made a fool of.
Jalonazo is an electric shock.
Mordiscos or piques are drag races in cars
Ponerse chúcaro is to get very angry. The verbs enojarse or ponerse bravo are synonyms.
¡Que cáscara! means What nerve!
¡Qué color! This expression is, How embarrassing!
Tapis is to be drunk but can also can refer to a drink of liquor.

To make a face at someone

Boronas – bread crumbs. The correct words are migas or migajas.
Carebarro – a shameless person. Sin vergüenza or descarado are more correct terms.
Carne de tabo – a person who is in jail
Estar como hormiga en popi – means to be happy. Feliz como lombriz also means very happy in tico talk.
Gomón – a bad hangover
Un Güilón – a beautiful young woman
Hasta el copete – means to fed up with someone or something. Estar harto/a de is more correct.
Irse de pollo – means to be made a fool of. The expression, agarrar de mae means the same
Jalarse un enjache – to make a face at someone. Enjachar and hacer una cara are also used
Pandillero/a – motorcyclists who dress like the Hells Angels. Looks can be deceiving since these guys are harmless here.
Pechonalidad – sounds la personalidad which means personality. Pechonalidad is word play using the word pecho which means a person’s chest. However in this case it refers to a woman’s large breasts.
Se la tira rico – means to live the good life
Toparse a bocajarro con alguien – means to bump or run into someone, Darse con is more correct.
Tufo – a bad odor


It is better to keep one’s mouth closed


  • Bocón – a person with a big mouth (figurative)
  • Calladito es más bonito – it is better to keep quiet
  • Del dicho al hecho hay mucho trecho – talk is cheap
  • Del Plato a la boca se pierde la sopa – talk is cheap
  • El que al cielo escupo, a la cara la cae – watch what you say or it will come back to bite you
  • El que mucho habla de lo que sabe, poco sabe de lo que dice – People who talk about what they know, often know nothing about what they are saying.
  • En bocas cerradas no entran moscas – it is best to keep quiet
  • Hablar no cuesta nada – talk is cheap
  • Hablar por hablar – to talk for the sake of it
  • Hablar por los codos – to talk one’s head off
  • La ropa sucia se lava en casa – it is better to talk about one’s problems in private
  • Las palabras sobran y los hechos hablan – talk is cheap
  • Las paredes oyen – the walls have ears
  • Lo prometido es deuda – have to keep a promise
  • Más pronto cae un hablador que un cojo – a person with a big mouth will fall faster than a person who is crippled
  • Más vale tonto callado, que tonto hablando – a dumb person should keep quiet
  • Mientes con los dientes – to lie through one’s teeth
  • Mucho rin rin y nada de helados – all talk
  • Para hablar y comer pescado, hay que tener mucho cuidado– be careful what you say
  • Perro que ladra no muerde – a person’s bark is worse than his bite
  • Por la boca muere el pez – watch what you say
  • Quien no sabe callar, no sabe hablar – have to learn to keep quiet at the right time
  • Quien tiene boca se equivoca – he who has a mouth makes mistakes
  • Uno es dueño de lo que calla y esclavo de lo que habla – be careful of what you say