Updated: Oct 15, 2021
Hello, goodbye! - no, it's not the beatles! -
The most common way to greet someone (informally) in Italian is 'Ciao'.
'Ciao' is used when you meet up with a friend or whenever you arrive at (or leave) a place. It is commonly widespread across the world and currently used in Bulgarian, Romanian, Portuguese, and many other languages with the meaning of 'goodbye'.
A bit of history :
The word derives from the Venetian phrase s-ciào vostro or s-ciào su literally meaning
“I am your slave”. This greeting is [like] the medieval Latin Servus[, which] was not
a literal statement of fact, but […] a promise of goodwill among friends (along the
lines of “at your service” in English). The Venetian word for “slave”, s-ciào ([ˈstʃao])
or s-ciàvo, derives from Medieval Latin sclavus, deriving from the ethnic “Slavic”,
since most of the slaves came from the Balkans. This greeting was eventually shortened to ciào, lost all its servile connotations,
and became an informal salutation by speakers of all classes. (Wikipedia)
The combination of 'c' + 'i' produces the sound ' ʧ ', the same one that you find at the beginning of words such as 'church','choice'. The vowel 'i' is clearly pronounced after the ' ʧ'' as well as the following 'a' and 'o'. You can listen to the video to hear the correct pronunciation.
Other forms of greetings
Other ways to greet someone are also commonly used in tv commercials, movies, or songs. A formal way to greet someone is 'salve', it is often used when the speakers don't know each other or there's a noticeable age gap between the speakers or a clear division of the roles - if you are going for an interview I would avoid to use 'ciao' and opt for a more respectful 'salve'. Just as in English the way of greeting someone reflects the time of the day in Italian the most common are : 'buongiorno' (during the day) & 'buonasera' (for the evening). The structure works exactly as in English, you've got the first part that reflects the adjective (good / buon ) and the second part that refers to the part of the day : day / giorno - evening / sera.
Goodbye To express the idea of 'goodbye' other than 'ciao' in Italian there's the famous 'arrivederci', that literally means 'to see you again' and the more dramatic 'addio' (farewell) often used in movies. There are many variants in the spoken language such as the use of 'ci vediamo' (an expression that could be translated with 'see ya'), and 'a presto!' - ( ..[see you] soon! )
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