Interjection. Colloquial. Early 20th century.
[Italian dialectical alteration of schiavo (I am your) slave, from medieval Latin sclavus slave.]
Ciao! It’s one of the best-known greetings in the world, and I thought it would be a great way to introduce myself to the Lexicolatry community. But first, let’s explore ciao - besides being an interchangeable hello and goodbye, like the Hawaiian aloha, ciao has an interesting etymology.
With a little digging, I found the origin of ciao is from the Venetian dialect word ‘s-ciavo’ used in the phrase “sono vostro schiavo” which literally means “I am your slave.” The Venetian word comes from the Latin ‘sclavus’ (slave) which in turn is used to identify Slavic people. In the 1400s, Venice ruled most of the world’s commerce and as a result a majority of their slaves were Slavic.
Naturally the racial and social connotations have long been lost, and today ciao is an informal greeting or parting word in many languages. However, when speaking Italian, unless you know someone already, or they say ‘ciao’ first, it’s better to use a more formal greeting like ‘salve’.
What’s your favorite way to say hello?
What’s your favorite way to say goodbye?
What language is it in?
Let me know in the comments below.
Thank you, Jessica, for you first posting on Lexi. Jessica currently works for Noodle, whose mission it is to help people made better decisions in education. She is a graduate of Quinnipiac University, Connecticut, and outside of work enjoys reading, sci-fi nerdery and exploring the interwebs. Oh, and she's also an awesome rock climber. Follow Jessica on Twitter @jkfinger. Cheers! Ed