I've seen MAE in Costa Rica used a bit and I was wondering if it is exclusive only to Costa Rica. And also, what is its general meaning?

Context is my girlfriend's brother told me this:

MAE qué buen mensaje

and I'm not sure what it means in this regard?

  • 4
    Do you need help figuring out etimologias.dechile.net/?mae and/or es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mae ? I think it's a very informal (but usually friendly) form of addressing someone; it's not an acronym.
    – yatima2975
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 21:40
  • The one thing these answers don't mention is that it's also a verbal crutch. You will hear some Costa Ricans using it every 4-5 words like some native english speakers do with "like".
    – Tico
    Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 3:01

4 Answers 4


According to this reference it is slang for dude or just to refer to somebody.

Mae can be used to mean "dude" between friends, or simply to refer to any man or woman ("ese mae te está llamando" = "that guy is calling you").

It seems that "mae" is actually pronounced like the English word "my" (although the official language is Spanish, many Costa-Rican are bilingual, so I guess that there is a lot of "Spanglish" spoken there).

In the reference there are many other Costa-Rican slang terms that you might find interesting or useful when talking to your girlfriend's family.

It seems that it is not exclusive to Costa Rica, since there is another question wondering about the usage of mae or maje in Nicaragua.

  • Thank you very much. I upvoted both Yatima's and your answer because they both were a great help to me. Thanks again for your help! Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 4:54
  • I Mexico exist may, in the same way and origin, actually is my friend but people just say may.
    – Jaume
    Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 4:47

As a Costa Rican myself, I can tell you that it actually isn't pronounced as "my", it's similar, but you are missing the last "e".

Mae is used in all kinds of situations it can express anger:

Mae, qué mierda. Shit, dude.

The difference is that Costa Ricans can say that expression without actually talking to someone else, the mae simply makes the statement more powerful, it's hard to explain.

In the sentence you presented, this guy is simply referring to you as "dude":

Dude, what a nice or good massage.

I have known a lot of people from other Spanish-speaking countries, and none of them used mae, most of them had actually never heard of it. Even in Central America you are going to find pretty big differences in the way Spanish is spoken between neighboring countries.


'Mae' has NOTHING to do with English, it is technically a two-syllable word (both a and e are strong vowels in Spanish), and it used to be 'maje' which was then shorted to ma'e, which was the most common spelling even a decade ago.

Yes, it comes from the verb 'majar', and many Ticos (Costa Ricans) especially of older generations consider it improper to use this word in polite society.

The national debate over this word even finds its way into the editorial pages of the national newspaper La Nación.

As others have said, the word is constantly heard among the youth along with huevón and a few others. A feminine form, rarely heard, is majita.

It is a little rude to call a female 'mae' but it happens. It's just like calling a girl 'dude' in English. Either way, 'mae' is here to stay.

Finally, although a fair number of Ticos around San José and in tourist areas speak passable English, they are very proud of their Spanish heritage and language and apart from a few specific words like 'email' they don't speak much Spanglish at all there, but try to sound educated in whichever language they are speaking, which is almost always Spanish unless talking to a Gringo or practicing for English class.


Mae comes from shoe makers that would make apprentices hammer leather to soften it over a century ago. Because it is practically useless, the apprentices and their bosses felt it was a punishment for learners; more like a practical joke for those coming through the ranks, or dumb ones (tontos in Spanish). The term has since being linked with fools, eventually being accepted more of a way to call each other "dudes". Whether it is specific to Costa Rica, I do not know, but I know it does not come from English.

It relates to the verb "majar" or to press, as in "Maje ese cuero". The word became a slang as it was transformed into "mae".



  • 3
    I don't get it. How is "mae" related to hammering or doing a pointless task? Could you further explain from which verb, action, word, etc. "mae" is derived? The origin of the word/expression is unclear from that explanation (you could switch that context to fishermen painting boats and it would explain the same about the "etymology" of the word). Also, references turn good answer into great ones, so it would be awesome if you could provide a reference to back up that statement.
    – Diego
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 20:24
  • It relates to the verb "majar" or to press as in "Maje ese cuero". The word became a slang as it was transformed into "mae". As for references, you can sit on classes at Universidad de Costa Rica for four plus years to learn the history of the slangs or do a search on Wikipedia, whichever you find more reliable.
    – Alex Asch
    Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 17:22
  • That makes sense. You should add it to your answer. It would improve the explanation greatly. As for references, I actually just realized that the second comment to this question provided a really good one, pointing to the same etymology. It seems that the user never converted that into an answer. Seems not to be specific of Costa Rica, since that page is "etimologías de chile" and there's also a question about its usage in Nicaragua
    – Diego
    Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 17:55

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