The most popular Italian word
If you’re wondering what the most popular Italian word is, let us tell you it’s not very easy to answer this question since it’s a bit relative.
In fact, there are many words that are popular.
If we stick to the meaning of “popular”, we should be considering the word that’s most frequently encountered or widely accepted.
This is why, we chose the word ciao, which is the most common greeting and is pronounced as “chaw”.
By the way, if you want to learn about the 1000 most common Italian words, we recommend reading our post.
What does “ciao” mean?
Interestingly, ciao means hello and goodbye.
It is mainly used in informal contexts. You can say ciao to friends and family members.
However, in formal settings, instead of ciao you should say buongiorno (good morning) or buonasera (good afternoon), depending on the time of the day.
There’s another formal greeting which is salve. We say salve in more formal contexts. For instance, you could say it to address your teacher, your boss, someone you don’t know, or an older person.
The most formal way of saying goodbye is arrivederci which literally means “until we see each other again”.
Now that you know different greetings, make sure you use ciao with people you know and feel comfortable with.
Where does the word “ciao” come from?
The origin of the word ciao is very interesting.
Ciao comes from the Venetian dialect (spoken in the Northeast of Italy), more specifically from the phrase s-ciào vostro, literally meaning “I am your slave”.
In the 17th century, this expression was used by servants when addressing their employers.
Often, s-ciào vostro was shortened to simply s-ciào and then to ciào.
With time, this word lost all its servile connotations and started to be used as an informal greeting.
Ciao was then spread to different countries and languages.
For example, in France, people write it as tchao. In Argentina they say chau, and in English, we sometimes write it as ciao.
However, in most languages, the variants of ciao are mainly used to mean just goodbye.
What are the most popular words in Italian?
As we said, defining what the most popular word is in a language might be tricky.
For this reason, we’ve decided to give you a list of other popular words:
- Grazie: thanks
- Prego: you’re welcome
- Scusa: sorry (informal)
- Scusi: sorry (formal)
- Cosa: thing
- Giorno: day