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Why are Costa Ricans called Ticos and Ticas?

Why are Costa Ricans called Ticos and Ticas?Costa Ricans are proud of calling themselves Ticos and Ticas. The female Costa Ricans are Ticas. The males are Ticos. The general population is Tico. Costa Ricans use the term Tico every day, just like the word Pura Vida.

Why is that? Where does it come from?

Ticos have the tendency of turning words into diminutives and sometimes add the diminutive tico at the end of words. Something small, chiquito, becomes chiquitico. A man is chiquitico and that woman is chiquitica. But, not always does the diminutive ends in tico.

The word Tico is for a male and Tica for a female person. But also, if the word is male like a male cat is gatico, it turns into gatica when it’s a female cat.

In English, it is customary to add “small” or “little” in front of it. In my language, Dutch, we actually make everything small by adding “je” to the word. Like beer becomes biertje and a joint becomes jointje.

A Tico is also a car model, made by the Korean Daewoo.

Why are Costa Ricans called Ticos and Ticas?


The term Tico is not a sarcastic term, not racial, and not negative at all. Often terms like that are not appreciated by its citizens, such as a Honker in Oregon, a Sooner in Oklahoma, a Nutmegger in Connecticut, a Cannuck in Canada and a Cheesehead (kaaskop) in the Netherlands. I come from Haarlem where the citizens are called muggen, which are zancuditos. Check out what a zancudito is here.

And Ticos like to be called exactly that, Ticos. During world cup soccer matches, they sing oeoeoeoe… Ticos, Ticos… and they’re proud of it.

The Tico Times once described the phenomenon as “It’s an endearing term, free of the sarcasm and prejudice of racial slurs, and it’s what they call themselves.”

Why are Costa Ricans called Ticos and Ticas?

Tico and Tica

Here are a few diminutives that end in tico or tica:

  • Ligero becomes Ligeritico =  fast becomes real fast
  • Todito becomes Toditico =  everything becomes all of it
  • Blanquita becomes Blanquitica = white becomes extremely white
  • Rato becomes Ratico = a while becomes a short moment
  • Momento becomes Momentico =  a moment becomes just a moment
  • Minute becomes Minutico = a minute becomes just a minute
  • Ahora becomes Ahoritica = in a while becomes in a short while

More extreme

  • Clarititica = extremely clear
  • Nadititica = absolutely nothing
  • Igualititica = exactly the same

Why are Costa Ricans called Ticos and Ticas?

Other diminutives

There are other diminutives used by Ticos, like cito or sito, ito or itos, cillo, tillo:

  • Cafecito = a little coffee
  • Postrecito = Little dessert
  • Paracasito = just before
  • Tardecita = a little bit late
  • Arribita = a little higher
  • Carrito = small car
  • Arbolito = small tree
  • Chiquito = small child
  • Secundito = just a second
  • Ahorita = in a second
  • Chiquitillo = very small
  • Ocupadilla = a little occupied
  • Machilla = the little blondie

The word “now”

Sometimes, it’s really hard to understand the difference between the words:

  • Ahora = now, in like less than 2 hours
  • Ahorita = in a while, later today
  • Ahoritica = it might happen in a while, but probably it won’t happen at all.

I’d like to thank my friend Alf Giebler again for being able to reference his book A lo Tico, which you can purchase online.

Why are Costa Ricans called Ticos and Ticas?

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Ivo Henfling

If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the central Valley, or looking for any property for sale in Escazu, you need to call me. I have been selling real estate in Escazu for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and other areas. To me, a deal is not a good deal unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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