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Italian 101 – How to say hello in Italian

September 26th is the European Day of Languages celebrating the rich diversity across Europe and promoting learning. And few countries have more dialects to celebrate than Italy where each town and village has its own particular language. So, as the first thing that a new language student usually learns is how to greet someone – to say hi, good morning and good day for example – here’s how to say hello in Italian to get you off to a great start!!

Good morning!

What does Ciao mean?

Probably the best-known Italian word for hello is Ciao (pronounced chow) which, confusingly, also means goodbye! The word came from the Venetian dialect word s‘ciao a shortened form of Sono suo schiavo or I am your slave.

It was originally the equivalent of At your service in English and was used as a reverential, slightly haughty greeting by Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni in his comedies of the 1700s before being introduced into Italian in the 1800s.

Statue of playwright Carlo Goldoni in Campo San Bartolomeo, nr the Rialto Bridge, Venice

Unfortunately, however, although the phrase was originally spoken in formal situations, the word is now used informally between friends, family or with young people and is more like hi than hello. On the positive side ciao can be used at any time of the day and also means goodbye either as a simple ciao or ciao ciao meaning bye-bye.

In formal circumstances, therefore, where you do not know the person you are greeting, when presented to new people or when greeting older people with whom you should use a formal greeting out of respect, you should not use ciao as it is too informal and could cause offence. Or worse, mark you out as an ignorant tourist!

Confused? Don’t worry, it gets easier!!

Buongiorno, saying Good Day

Literally good day, buongiorno (pronounced bwon-jor-noh) is used for formal, polite greetings. It can be used in the morning or afternoon, ie during the day(!), and is a polite way to greet both friends and family and also strangers or new acquaintances. You’re on safe ground with buongiorno unless, of course, you slip up and use it in the evening! Easy eh!

Hello beautiful soul!

Another couple of ways to say good day are buona giornata (pronounced bwona jornahta) or buon di (pronounced bwon dee) although these are less common.

Note : Buona giornata is also a way of saying good day when, for example, leaving a shop but we’ll get into that another time!

Buon pomeriggio means Good Afternoon

As a variation on buongiorno, buon pomeriggio (pronounced bwon pomereejoh) means good afternoon and should be used, unsurprisingly, in the afternoon after lunch and before dinner – ie after 1pm and up to around 4pm. Told you it got easier!

Buona sera, Good Evening

Buona sera (pronounced bwona seh-rah) is another variation on a theme meaning good evening. This one is a little trickier though, as it can be used after lunch or mid afternoon onwards and throughout the evening.

Some regions seem to use it from as early as 2-3pm onwards whilst others appear to use it later from 4pm onwards. Either way, it’s safe to use in the evenings and is a polite greeting that can be used with everybody!! Phew!

Salve – another suggestion for how to say hello in Italian

And finally we come to salve (pronounced salveh), probably one of the least known Italian greetings. Salve comes from the Latin salvere, meaning to be in good health, and is a useful friendly and polite way to say hello, even in reasonably formal situations. For example, if you are out for your evening passeggiata or stroll around town and want to great someone you don’t know, you could use Salve instead of Buona sera without being too informal or causing offence.

And finally…..

One final point to note if you are learning how to say hello in Italian. If you are presented to someone, say a friend is introducing you their sister or parent, it is polite to shake hands and say Piacere (pronounced pee-ah-chair-eh) which is the equivalent to the English Nice to meet you. You’ll score several brownie points for knowing that one and as Italian life is all about making a good impression you’ll be off to a good start!

Normally, in this situation you wouldn’t be expected to go in for the double air kiss as that’s considered a bit forward on a first meeting. Also, some cities seem to kiss left, then right, as in Venice, or right then left so to play it completely safe, take the lead from the person you’re meeting!

OOOh, and one very last point…..

Italians are a very polite people and always say hello when meeting anyone. This includes when you pass someone in the street (although don’t just greet everyone unless you’re in a small village and trying to make friends otherwise that would be a bit weird!), buying tickets for the train or shopping, for example.


To an Italian, entering a shop is similar to entering a person’s home, something that you’d never do without a greeting. So if you want to make a good impression when travelling in Italy, always make sure to greet the shopkeeper when you enter, even if they’re serving someone, and make sure to say thanks and goodbye as you leave, although I’ll save that lesson for another post!!!

Ciao for now!

Useful information

European Day of Languages website  – http://edl.ecml.at/Home/tabid/1455/language/en-GB/Default.aspx

Ciao, buongiorno, salve!

The European Year of Languages 2001, jointly organised by the Council of Europe and the European Union, was successful in involving millions of people across 45 participating countries. Its activities celebrated linguistic diversity in Europe and promoted language learning.

Following the success of the Year the Council of Europe declared a European Day of Languages to be celebrated on 26th of September each year throughout its 47 member states. The general objectives of the European Day of Languages (EDL) are:

  • Alerting the public to the importance of language learning and diversifying the range of languages learnt in order to increase plurilingualism and intercultural understanding;
  • Promoting the rich linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe, which must be preserved and fostered;
  • Encouraging lifelong language learning in and out of school, whether for study purposes, for professional needs, for purposes of mobility or for pleasure and exchanges.

Information on the EDL sourced from the EDL website.

The post Italian 101 – How to say hello in Italian first appeared on DreamDiscoverItalia.

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Italian Greetings and Good-Byes — dummies

  1. Languages
  2. Italian
  3. Italian Greetings and Good-Byes

By Teresa L. Picarazzi

When traveling in Italy, you’ll find that the words and phrases you use most frequently will be the common Italian greetings. The words and phrases will quickly become second nature as you use them day in and day out with everyone you come across.

Saying hello and good-bye

As you’d expect, you should use a polite greeting when you run into someone you know or want to know. But in most Italy it is important to use the correct greeting depending on who you are greeting. So, you would use a different word for greeting your friend than you would for greeting your boss or teacher.

The most common ways to say greet someone in Italian are:

  • Ciao (hello; hi [Informal])

    Ciao! is the most common way of saying hello and goodbye informally. You should never use it with someone like a boss or a teacher or anyone else with whom you’re using Lei (the formal version of you).

  • Salve! (Hi; Bye [Formal/Informal])

  • Che piacere vederti! (How nice it is to see you! [Informal])

  • Buongiorno! (Hello; Good morning; Goodbye [Formal])

  • Buona sera! (Hello; Good evening; Goodbye [Formal])

    Use the longer Buon giorno and Buona sera in more formal situations, like when you enter a store.

There are also many ways to say goodbye.

  • Ciao! (Hi; Bye [Informal])

  • Salve! (Hi; Bye [Formal/Informal])

  • Ciao! Ciao! (Bye-bye!)

  • Buon giorno! (Hello; Good morning; Goodbye [Formal])

  • Buona sera! (Hello; Good evening; Goodbye [Formal])

  • Buona notte! (Good night! [Formal/Informal])

    Use Buona notte! only when its bedtime and when you’re taking leave of people at night and you think that everyone is going to bed.

  • Arrivederci! (Goodbye! [Informal])

  • Arrivederla! (Goodbye! [Formal])

  • A dopo! (See you later! [Formal/Informal])

  • A presto! (See you soon! [Formal/Informal])

  • A domani! (See you tomorrow! [Formal/Informal])

  • A fra poco. (See you in a bit.)

Cheek kissing is another common type of greeting in Italy, as it is in most European countries. However, in Italy cheek kissing is reserved for greeting people you know well and is less common among men. To avoid bumping noses, the rule is to kiss left cheek first and then the right. When you meet someone for the first time, handshakes are much more common. As you get to know the other person, you move more into cheek-kissing territory.

Asking and replying to “How are you?”

How are you? How’s it going? How many times a day do we hear or say these brief greetings at the beginning of our conversations? So many times, in fact, that half the time, we don’t even pay attention. These pleasantries are common in Italy as well. The most common ways to ask how someone is doing are:

As you’d expect, when someone asks you how you’re doing, there are many responses.

  • Sto bene! (I’m well!)

  • Molto bene, grazie. (Very well, thanks.)

  • Abbastanza bene, grazie. (Pretty well, thanks.)

  • Non c’è male. (Pretty well, thanks.)

  • Sto bene grazie, e tu? (I’m well, thanks, and you? [Informal])

  • Sto bene, grazie, e Lei? (I’m well, thanks, and you? [Formal])

  • Non sto bene.; Sto male. (I’m not well.)

  • Malissimo! (Not well at all!)

  • Va bene. (Things are going well.)

  • Va tutto bene. (Everything’s going well.)

  • Va benissimo! (Things are going great!)

  • Va male. (Things aren’t going well.)

  • Così così. (So so.)

  • Non mi posso lamentare. (I can’t complain.)

  • Benissimo! (Great!)

How to address people

Italians like titles and tend to use them whenever possible. When addressing someone without using his or her last name, use the entire title as it’s listed here. But when you add the person’s last name to the title, you drop the final -e in the title. Use the Lei form when using any of the following titles:

  • Miss (Signorina)

  • Mrs.; Madam (Signora)

  • Mister; Sir (Signore)

  • professore [M]; professoressa [F] (professor)

  • ingegnere (engineer)

  • dottore [M]; dottoressa [F] (doctor)

    In Italian, dottore is used if the person has a university degree even though its not a medical degree.


How to say hello in Italian!

Ciao! is probably one the best known Italian words in the world. It’s an informal greeting which can be used at any time of the day and is also used to say goodbye. Just out of curiosity let’s have a quick look at the etymology of the word: ciao comes from the Venetian dialect word sciao, which in turns derives from sciavo, an abbreviation of sono vostro schiavo (lit. I am your slave!).

However, notice that I say that ciao is an informal greeting. This means that you need to be careful not to use ciao in formal situations. Let’s say that ciao is more or less equivalent to the English ‘hi’, or ‘bye’. When I was growing up in England in the 60’s and 70’s it was considered rude to say ‘hi’ to a stranger or someone you had just been introduced to, and in fact when I go back to England for a holiday I still feel a bit offended if I go into a shop (or even a bank!) and the young employee greets me, a complete stranger, with the word hi!, or even worse hiya!

Italian culture makes pretty clear distinctions between formal and informal situations, not just in terms of social etiquette but also in the grammatical structure of the language used, and personally I hope this doesn’t gradually disappear, as has mostly happened in England, although sadly in some of the big chain stores here in Italy (I remember entering a well know international DVD rental store in Lucca and being greeted with ciao! … yuk!) it seems to have already become the norm to greet complete strangers as if they’re your best friend!

But you dear reader are not to pick up these horrible habits!

So … when do you use ciao? You use ciao with friends, close relatives, children, and, if you like, animals.

And how do you say hello in formal situations? One of the most common formal Italian greetings is ‘salve’, and for some strange reason it rarely gets taught in Italian language classes or books.

Salve comes from the Latin verb salvere (lit. to be well, to be in good health), which is related to the Italian noun salute (health). It can be used in a friendly informal way, similar to ciao, e.g. Salve! Come va? (lit. Hi! How’s it going?), but it’s usually used as a polite form of salutation without being too formal, in fact the word salutation itself comes from the same Latin root as salute.

You can also use buongiorno (good day) and buonasera (good afternoon/evening) to greet strangers or people whom you normally address in a more formal way, such as doctors, lawyers, and so on.

If you are introduced to someone new, or they introduce themselves to you, then use the word piacere (pleasure, pleased to meet you).


Okay, now for a few practical examples:

I meet my friend Claudio in the piazza and I greet him with: ciao bello, come stai? (hi handsome, how are you? don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal for grown men to greet each other in this way!)

Then I bump into my doctor, Dottor Arrighi, and I say: buongiorno dottore, come sta? (good day doctor, how are you?)

Dottor Arrighi introduces me to his wife, whom I’ve never met before, so I say: piacere (pleased to meet you)

…and his six year old nephew to whom I say: ciao! (hi!)

Here are a couple of colloquial greeting:

Chi si vede! (look who’s turned up/look who’s here. lit. who does one see)

…and if someone happens to appear when you’re talking about them you can say lupus in fabula (speak of the devil. lit. wolf in the fairy tale)

As a rule of thumb however, play it safe and stick with salve, buongiorno, or buonasera unless you know that you’re on ciao terms with someone.

Ciao Ciao


Ways to Say Hello in Italian

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Though the Italian greeting, «ciao,» has become a known and accepted way to say hello or goodbye around the world, the Italian language includes gradations of greetings depending on the situation. Just as you would not greet a professor or your grandmother the same way your would greet your best friend or spouse in English, Italians say hello with various levels of formality, depending on who they’re greeting.

Come Va? or Che C’è?

At the low-pressure end of the greeting spectrum, the questions «come va?» and «che c’è» are used among close friends who use the informal pronoun with each other. Similar to «what’s up» in English or «que tal» in Spanish, these greetings inquire into the life of the greeted individual. Some older Italians maintain formal conversational tone, even with long-standing friends, and these greetings would not be appropriate in such groups. Be forewarned: while saying «What’s up» to an American buddy doesn’t merit a half-hour rant about what is going on in their lives, Italians take the question more seriously.


«Ciao» can be a greeting or goodbye, but is typically used in a casual, almost off-handed manner. As a greeting, the word «ciao» has its roots in the Venetian dialect of Italian. Like the English expression «at your service,» Italians in a more proper time used to greet each other by saying «your slave» or «schiavo vostro.» The meaning was not literal — this was solely a way servants greeted their masters — but rather a way to greet friends that showed one’s loyalty. In certain accents, namely Venetian, the hard «c» at the beginning of the schiavo and the «d» at the end soften, creating more of a «sciao» sound.

Buongiorno or Buona Sera

Italians are generally more formal in their speech with strangers than Americans, using the formal third person pronoun instead of the familiar second person. When you are meeting someone for the first time, doing business or interacting with someone at a shop or restaurant, open your conversation with a respectful formal greeting. Use «buongiorno» during the day and «buona sera» from afternoon to bedtime as a standard, innocuous greeting appropriate for airport and train offices, waiters and phone calls.

Saluto or Cordiali Saluti

Some occasions require even more formality that you will typically encounter in your average day. When making an inquiry at a government office or writing formal business correspondence or a letter to an apartment rental agency, you should use the utmost courtesy in your speech. «Saluto» comes from an ancient Roman greeting: I salute you. Though the meaning — and additional words — have been dropped, the word conveys a level of extreme formality that would be perceived as frigid in friendly conversations. «Cordiali saluti,» or kind salutations, is another variation with an even more formal edge, best reserved for meeting your boss’s boss or royalty.

About the Author

Gabi Logan began writing food and travel articles in 2004. Logan’s work has appeared in Boston-area online magazines, including «The Second Glass» and «The Savvy Bostonian,» and in publications at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Italian language and culture from Smith College.

Leaf Group is a USA TODAY content partner providing general travel information. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.


How to Say Hello in Italian

When And How /
News /
‘Hello’, Italian /

The most direct way to say “hello” in Italian is “ciao” but there are actually multiple ways to greet someone in Italian. Depending on the circumstances of your greeting, some of these other ways might actually be more suitable. Here are a few of the most helpful “hello” phrases to know.


EditStandard Hello

  1. Say “ciao” in casual situations.[1] This is one of the two most common ways to say “hello” or “hi” in Italian.

    • Note that “ciao” can also be translated as “good-bye” depending on the context it is said in.
    • While it is a common greeting, ciao is considered fairly informal and is usually used in casual situations or among friends and family.
    • Pronounce ciao as chow.
  2. Switch to “salve” for neutral situations.[2] This is the second most common way to say “hello” in Italian, but is still not very common.

    • While not quite as common as “ciao,” the term “salve” is more appropriate to use amongst people you are not on familiar terms with. The most formal way to greet someone is with a time-specific greeting, but salve is still appropriate to use with most people.
    • To put it in the perspective of a native English speaker, “ciao” is like “hi” while “salve” is closer to “hello.”
    • Salve is borrowed from Latin and was used frequently by the Romans during Caesar’s time.[3]
    • Like ciao, salve can also be used to say “good-bye” depending on the context.
    • Pronounce salve as sahl-veh.

EditTime-Specific Greetings

  1. State “buongiorno” in the morning. This phrase translates into “good morning” or “good day.”

    • Buon is derived from the Italian adjective “buono,” meaning “good.”
    • Giorno is an Italian noun meaning “day.”
    • As with many other Italian greetings, buongiorno can also mean “good-bye” depending on the context.
    • Buongiorno and other time-based greetings are considered the most formal way of greeting someone. That said, you can still use these phrases among friends and family.
    • Pronounce buongiorno as bwohn jor-noh.[4]
  2. Greet someone with “buon pomeriggio” in the afternoon.[5] This phrase can be used to say “good afternoon” as a greeting or farewell after noon.

    • Note that you may still hear buongiorno in the afternoon, but buon pomeriggio is slightly more common and more accurate. “Buon pomeriggio” is a lot more formal than “buongiorno”.
    • Buon means “good” and pomeriggio is a noun meaning “afternoon.”
    • Pronounce the greeting as bwohn poh-meh-ree-joh.
  3. Tell someone “buonasera” in the evening. After roughly 4 PM, the polite way to greet or bid farewell to someone is with buonasera.

    • Buona means “good” while sera is an Italian noun meaning “evening.” Since sera is feminine, the masculine adjective “buon” takes on the feminine form “buona.”
    • Pronounce buonasera as bwoh-nah seh-rah.

EditAdditional Greetings

  1. Answer the phone with “pronto?”[6] This is another term used to say “hello” in Italian, but it is only used for telephone conversations.

    • You can use pronto when receiving a phone call or making a phone call.
    • As an adjective, pronto actually means “ready” in English. By answering the phone with this term, the implication is that you are ready to hear what the speaker wishes to say or asking if the speaker is ready to speak.
    • Pronounce pronto as prohn-toh.
  2. Tell a group of people “ciao a tutti.” If greeting a group of friends, you might opt to use this phrase instead of greeting everyone individually.

    • Remember that the term “ciao” is an informal or casual way of saying “hi.”
    • A tutti means “to all.” The word “a” means “to” and the word “tutti” means “all” or “everyone.”
    • Translated literally, the phrase means “hi to everyone.”
    • Pronounce this phrase as chow ah too-tee.
  3. Greet someone new with “piacere di conoscerti.”[7] In English, this phrase means “pleased to meet you.”

    • Piacere is taken from an Italian verb meaning “to please” or “to be fond of.” It can also be used on its own as an interjection to say “hello,” but it is not commonly used as such.
    • Di is a preposition that can mean “of,” “to,” or “for,” among other things.
    • Conoscerti is an informal conjugation of the Italian verb “conoscere,” meaning “to know” or “to meet.” Note that a more formal way to conjugate this verb would be “conoscerla.”
    • Pronounce piacere di conoscerti as pee-ah-cheh-reh dee koh-noh-shehr-tee.
    • Pronounce piacere di conoscerla as pee-ah-cheh-reh dee koh-no-shehr-lah.
  4. Switch to “incantato.”[8] This is a slang term used informally to express great pleasure at meeting someone. It is often a greeting meaning a guy will be flirting (or a girl, “incantata”).

    • The English equivalent of this phrase would be “spellbound” or “enchanted.”
    • Pronounce this greeting as een-kahn-tah-toh.
  5. Welcome someone with “benvenuto.” If greeting someone as a host, use this phrase to tell that person “welcome.”

    • Ben is derived from the Italian word “buon,” meaning “well.”
    • Venuto is derived from the Italian verb “venire,” meaning “to come.”
    • Translated more directly, benvenuto means “well coming.”
    • Pronounce benvenuto as behn-veh-noo-toh.

EditCheat Sheet

Sample Ways to Say Hello in Italian

EditRelated wikiHows

  • Say Shut Up in Italian
  • Say Greetings in Italian

EditSources and Citations

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How To Say Hello In Italian

Have you ever entered an Italian café and were welcomed with a warm ciao? Around the world, people use this Italian word as a posh parting, so what’s happening here? They look happy to see you — so why did they say “bye”? Do they really expect you to go already? You may have already figured out the issue: Nobody actually wants you to leave — they use ciao for saying hello in Italian as well as goodbye. As for whether or not Italians are aware that many countries use this word exclusively for goodbyes — let’s just say it’s still a mystery.

It’s definitely curious to see how much confusion there is around one of the most well-known Italian words (well, the most widely-known after pizza). And how many of you knew that its original meaning has something to do with slavery? Seriously: ciao is an evolution from the Venetian word s’ciavo (Italian: schiavo) meaning “slave.” It was used to greet people while showing them graciousness, expressing something to the effect of, “I’m your slave.”

Saying Hello In Italian Like A Native

So how do you say hello in Italian like a native? It would seem that the safest way to greet someone in Italian would be with the already-international ciao, but this is not necessarily true. If you’re in a formal situation, such as with individuals you don’t know or are in a generally more reserved environment, like at work or the doctor’s office, you should instead use buongiorno or buonasera (literally “good day” and “good evening”), according to the time of the day.

If you’re in doubt about what type of greeting to use, here’s a trick: just use salve which, like “hello” in English, works well in formal as well as informal situations. It sounds more relaxed than the formal buongiorno, but still carries a degree of politeness that the familiar ciao doesn’t. For example, if you meet your friend’s grandfather for the first time, it’d be better to say salve, perhaps even buongiorno, and you’re only allowed to switch to ciao when you know him better.

Farewells With Flair

Now when it comes to saying goodbye, you have two options: One possibility is to use — guess what — ciao in informal situations, while the other, more formal option is arrivederci, which is a wish to see each other again. You can even slowly move from a formal buongiorno when arriving to a friendly ciao when leaving! It all depends on how the conversation evolves. If you think your conversation partner deserves it, you could also wish the person a nice rest of their day or evening by saying buona giornata or buona serata. But never use it when arriving — Italians will unmask you as a non-native!

One last tip: If you feel lazy and a bit more self-confident when speaking, you can always surprise Italians using the short forms ‘ngiorno or ‘sera, short for buongiorno and buonasera respectively. Just remember, laziness is not a sign of respect, so you’d better know in advance if the reaction will be a pleased smile or an offended glance! Of course, all of these subtleties will come to you naturally the more comfortable you feel conversing in Italian.

Best of luck, and ciao for now!


hello — Translation into Italian — examples English

These examples may contain rude words based on your search.

These examples may contain colloquial words based on your search.

That’s «hello» in Navajo.

Significa «ciao«, in Navajo.

Why hello, my dear daughter.

Ma ciao, mia cara figliola.

hello? — spencer Barnes, please.

Pronto? — Spencer Barnes, per favore.

Yes, hello, we have an emergency.

Sì, pronto, abbiamo un’emergenza.

Except for «hello» this morning, it was last night.

Senza considerare il «buongiorno» di oggi, gli ho parlato ieri sera.

Well, hello, junior citizens of Agrestic.

Well, hello there… old friend.

Ma ciao… mio vecchio amico.

Uncle Philip — hello, old boy.

Well, hello, bug guy.

Bene, ciao, ragazzo degli insetti.

Why, hello, old friend.

Perché, ciao, vecchio amico.

Well, hello there, little thing.

Ciao a te, piccolo animale.

Well, hello there, little pup.

Ehi, ciao a te, bel cagnolino.

But if he pays, hello, Duke.

Ma se paga… Ciao, Duke.

No time to say goodbye, hello.

Non posso dirti addio, ciao.

First of all, hello, welcome.

Prima di tutto, ciao, benvenuti.

Someone wants to say «hello«.

Qualcuno vuole dire ‘ciao‘.

Temptation one, Enzo — hello, gorgeous.

Tentazione uno, Enzo… Ciao, bellissima.

And hello to you, too.

E ciao a te, in ogni caso.

This to remind me, a casual hello and everything else is forgotten.

Un semplice ciao per farmi ricordare e tutto il resto è dimenticato.


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