When you are meeting some friends, for instance, be it morning or evening, you can say ‘ciao’ both when you meet and when you say goodbye. Since ‘ciao’ is an informal greeting you only use it in conversations with friends or family or people you know very well. Avoid using it with people of high social importance such as police officers, doctors, your boss or a teacher.
The origins of ‘ciao’ are rather interesting too with its roots in the Venetian dialect. The original phrase was ‘scia’o vostro’ which literally meant ‘I am your slave’. This phrase was typically used to say ‘I am there if you need me’. Similar to the English ‘at your service’, it was an expression or promise of goodwill among friends.
Nowadays, ‘ciao’ is one of the most popular greetings not only in Italy but in the whole world. Languages around the world have adopted ‘ciao’ as one of the ways to say hello and/or goodbye. In Germany, for example, it can be spelled ‘ciao’ or ‘tschau’, in French it’s ‘tchao’ in Czech it’s spelled ‘cau’, in Greek it’s ‘????’ and in Spanish it’s ‘chau’. And that’s just to name a few!
However, if you don’t want to repeat the same word all the time or need something more formal, here’s a formal Italian greeting you can use.
Depending on how you say ‘ciao’ it can also take on a new meaning. For example, in Italian and Portuguese, when you say it twice, either ‘ciao ciao!’ or ‘tchau tchau!’ it means ‘goodbye’, but when you say it three or four times, it means “bye, I’m in a hurry!”.
When an Italian is super happy to see you, they will drag out the pronunciation of the ‘a’, which is them basically saying “Hi! I’m so happy/amazed to meet you!”
Many Italian greetings can be clearly classified as formal or informal, but ‘salve’ is a special case. Like ‘ciao’, it means both ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’, but it is also viewed as both formal and informal, depending on the context. However, it does tend to be a little more on the ferzu formal side. You probably won’t hear ‘salve’ from someone you’ve been good friends with for a long time. When in doubt, the safest bet is to say ‘salve’.
The word ‘salve’ comes from the Latin verb ‘salvere’, which means ‘to be well, in good health’, related to ‘salvus’, ‘health’. The English words ‘to salute’ and ‘salutations’ have similar roots.
You can use ‘salve’ if you want to ‘salute’ someone in a formal or informal situation at any time of the day.
3. How to say ‘How nice to see you’ in Italian – Che piacere (ri)vederti
‘Che piacere vederti!’ and ‘Che piacere rivederti!’, literally means, ‘What a pleasure to see you’ and ‘What a pleasure to see you again’ respectively.
If you want your greeting to be a little more enthusiastic and emotional, tell the person that it is a pleasure to see them. ‘Piacere’ means ‘pleasure’. In fact, these two words originated from the same Latin root.
Use this greeting when they want to tell someone how happy they are to see them (vederti) or see them again (riverderti).
Italians tend to use this expression when they haven’t seen someone in a while or with someone they see often but are genuinely happy to see them again.
4. How to say ‘Good Morning’ in Italian – Buongiorno
Just like in English, some Italian greetings are only appropriate for a certain time of the day. It would feel weird if someone greeted you with a ‘good afternoon’ or a ‘good evening’ at 10 a.m., wouldn’t it?