The word ciao (Italian pronunciation: [ˈtʃa.o], English: /ˈtʃaʊ/) is an informal Italian verbal salutation or greeting, meaning either "goodbye" or "hello". Originally from the Venetian language, it was adopted by Italians and eventually entered the vocabulary of English and of many other languages around the world. The word is mostly used as "goodbye" or "bye" in English, but in modern Italian and in other languages it may mean "hello" or "goodbye".


  • 1 Etymology
  • 2 Spread
  • 3 Usage as greeting
  • 4 See also
  • 5 Notes


The word derives from the Venetian phrase s-cio vostro or s-cio su literally meaning "I am your slave". This greeting is analogous to the Latin Servus which is still used in a large section of Central/Eastern Europe. The expression was not a literal statement of fact, of course, but rather a perfunctory promise of good will among friends (along the lines "if you ever need my help, count on me"). The Venetian word for "slave", s-cio ([ˈstʃao]) or s-civo, is cognate of the Italian schiavo and derives from Latin sclavus.

This greeting expression was eventually shortened to cio, lost all its servile connotations and came to be used as an informal salutation by speakers of all classes. The word s-cio is still used in Venetian and in the Lombard language as an exclamation of resignation, as in O, va be', s-cio ("Oh, well, never mind!"). A Milanese proverb/tongue-twister says Se gh'inn gh'inn, se gh'inn no s-cio ("If there is [money], there is; if there isn't, farewell! [there's nothing we can do]").


The Venetian cio was adopted by the Italian language, with the spelling ciao, presumably during the golden days of the Venetian Republic. It has since spread to many countries in Europe, along with other items of the Italian culture. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the greeting spread to the Americasespecially Colombia, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil, Venezuela, and Argentinalargely by way of Italian immigrants.

Ernest Hemingway's novel A Farewell to Arms (1929), which is set in northeast Italy during World War I, is credited with bringing the word into the English language [1]. Today it is not uncommon for native/adopted speakers of the English language to use "ciao" instead of "goodbye" in informal speech.

Usage as greeting

In contemporary Italian usage, ciao is interchangeable for both an informal hello and goodbye, much as aloha in Hawaiian, shalom in Hebrew, salam in Arabic or annyeong in Korean. In other languages, it has come to have more specific meanings. The following list summarizes the spelling and uses of this salutation in various languages and countries.

In some languages, such as Latvian, the vernacular version of ciao has become the most common form of informal salutation. Note however that the Vietnamese cho is not derived from Italian but is a native word.

The greeting has often several variations and minor uses. In Italian, for example, a doubled ciao ciao means specifically "goodbye", tripled or quadrupled (but said with short breaks between each one) means "Bye, I'm in a hurry!"[citation needed]. Pronounced with a long [a], it means "Hello, I'm so glad to meet you!" (be it sincere or hypocritical)[citation needed]; with a lengthened [i] (so that it sounds like a meowing of a cat) it has flirtatious implications[citation n