What is “Tico”? What does “Tico” Mean Exactly?
After participating in a Tico Lingo Spanish immersion program in 2018, Avonne decided to stay in Costa Rica and pursue a career in journalism in the tourism sector in Costa Rica!
“Tico” quickly fascinated me and became one of my favorite terms during my trip. Upon reading the term, I hadn’t a clue what it meant. Is it a city? Maybe an accent? In reality, “Tico” is basically a term that Costa Ricans affectionately use to describe themselves and the things around them. Just as Felix was a ‘German’ and Kima was a “Canadian”, Freddy, our professor, was a “Tico”. Likewise, it can be added to adjectives to make them sound cute, affectionate, and little (more on this later). 🙂
“Tico” and “tica” (male and female) are colloquial terms that Costa Ricans gave themselves, due to their linguistic tendency to add the diminutive “tico” to the end of words. For instance, in standard Spanish ‘un poco’ means ‘a little’, the diminutive is “un poquito” (a little bit), but Costa Ricans often say “un poquitico.”
What is unique to Costa Rica is the use of this suffix to also denote affection. Words ending in -ico, -ica, -tico, -tica do not only mean “small”, but they also depict affection and similar endearing feelings too.
In Spanish, this diminutive form (formed by dropping the final ‘o’ or the ‘a’ and adding an ‘ito’ or ‘ita’ depending upon the gender) is commonly used out of friendliness and familiarity. For instance, doesn’t it sound much more affectionate and easygoing to call your amigo (friend) an amigito (little friend)? 😉
My homestay Mom used to say “¡hola mi chicatica!” meaning “Hello my little girl!”. I began doing it with everything! “Perritico” (little dog), “Pizzatica” (little pizza) and “cafético” (little coffee). Over time, the mistake became celebrated as a way for Costa Ricans to define their own style of the Spanish language. While studying in Heredia, you will absolutely hear this style throughout town!