If you want to learn Italian, a great starting place is learning Italian greetings. This way, you can start connecting with Italian speakers from day one.
In this blog post, you'll learn some of the most common words and phrases to greet people in Italian so you can start your learning journey right away.
How To Say Hello In Italian
Even if you haven’t studied Italian a day in your life, you’ve probably already heard or used the Italian word for hello.
#1 Ciao! (Hi / Hello)
Yes! Ciao, it’s the most common informal way to greet someone in Italian. You’d generally use it with your peers, friends and family.
- Ciao a tutti! (Hello everyone)
However, ciao is not the only greeting used in Italy. If you're in a formal setting or want to approach a stranger, you can use the more tactful but friendly Salve!
#2 Salve (Hello)
Salve comes from the Latin verb salvēre, which was used to wish good health. Today salve is one of the go-to salutations for starting a conversation with someone you don’t know.
- Salve, come posso aiutarvi oggi? (Hello, how can I help you today?)
On The Origins Of Ciao
A popular theory is that ciao comes from the late Latin word sclavus which means “slave”. The term was then localised to the Venetian dialect as s’ciavo. From S’ciao, it turned into the word we use today: ciao.
Does that mean we're calling everyone we greet this way a slave!?
No, quite the contrary. The greeting was a shorthand form of showing (real or assumed) deference and loyalty to someone by saying, “I’m your slave, I’m at your service, ask of me what you will”.
Lovers also used it to woo the subject of their attention and declare themselves willing to obey her every wish.
With time the word lost those formal and social connotations and evolved into the widespread informal greeting it currently is. Somehow, it was later exported internationally and became part of the vocabulary of several other languages.
Time-Related Italian Greetings And Their Variations
You can use ciao and salve at any time of the day.
However, just as you would in English, you’ll hear other types of Italian greetings, depending on when the meeting takes place.
Before delving into what they are, let me introduce you to some time-related words in Italian.
- Giorno, which means “day”
- Pomeriggio, which is “afternoon”
- Sera is the Italian for “evening”
- and Notte means “night”.
Now, if you want to use a time-related greeting in Italian, you’d pair two words just as you would in English.
First, you say Buon(o/a) – the Italian equivalent for “good, nice”- and then add the appropriate Italian word based on the time of the day.
#3 Buongiorno (Good Morning)
For example, to say Good morning, you’d say Buon+giorno (good+day)
- Buongiorno, classe (Good morning class)
Buongiorno can be used to greet anyone in the morning till about 5pm in fact, so it's pretty versatile.
#4 Buon Pomeriggio (Good Afternoon)
Then we have Buon pomeriggio, which is considered a formal greeting; it’s unlikely that friends would greet each other with this phrase.
- Buon pomeriggio, signora Sanna. (Good afternoon, Mrs. Sanna)
#5 Buonasera (Good Evening)
Just like Buongiorno, you can use the handy Buonasera with everyone. You’ll generally hear it after 5 o'clock or after sunset time.
- Buonasera a tutti (Good evening, everyone)
Saying Goodnight In Italian
Is it getting late? Here are some Italian greetings you can use late at night or at bedtime.
#6 Buonanotte (Goodnight)
Buonanotte is a way of taking leave of someone at the end of a day. Saying buonanotte usually implies that you won't have the chance to see the other person till the next day.
It can be used to simply wish someone a good night before parting ways or to signal that you want to sleep.
#7 Sogni D'oro (Sweet Dreams)
To wish someone sweet dreams, you can say sogni d'oro (Sweet dreams / Sleep tight), which literally means “dreams of gold”. This expression is often paired with buonanotte.
- Buonanotte e sogni d'oro (Good night and sweet dreams)
How To Welcome Someone In Italian
Suppose you want to use a welcome greeting to usher an Italian-speaking guest into your house.
#8 Bevenuto/a //Benvenuti (Welcome)
In that case, you can say Benvenuto/a or Benvenuti (for two or more people).
Benvenuto is used when addressing a male, while Benvenuta is used to welcome a female.
- Benvenuto John (Welcome, John)
- Benvenuti in Italia! (Welcome to Italy)
#9 Bentornato/a (Welcome Back)
If you want to welcome back someone that has been away, or has recently come back from abroad, bentornato is a useful addition to your dictionary.
It's formed from two words: ben (well) and tornato (came back). The same gender rules seen for benvenuto apply here.
- Bentornato tesoro (Welcome back, dear)
How To Say Goodbye In Italian
Use ciao or ciao ciao at the end of an interaction to say goodbye… – Is this a typo? Didn’t we say that ciao means “hi” in Italian?
Well, yes. But it’s also used to close an informal exchange in Italian.
- Ciao, ci sentiamo dopo (Bye, talk to you later)
#10 Arrivederci (Till Next Time)
Another way to say goodbye in Italian is Arrivederci. It literally means “till the next time we see each other”.
- Arrivederci ragazzi, ci vediamo (Goodbye guys, see you)
There is a more formal version of this word, which is arriverdla.
- ArrivederLa e buone vacanze signor Rossi (Goodbye, have a great vacation Mr Rossi)
#11 Addio (Farewell)
Sometimes, you might hear the word Addio, especially during a dramatic scene in Italian movies. Addio also means goodbye, but it’s mainly used as a definitive farewell or to imply that you don’t expect (or want) to see the other person again.
- Addio, mi mancherai (Goodbye, I will miss you)
How To Say “See You Later” In Italian
If you want to be more specific regarding when you expect or plan to see the other person, here are some more Italian greetings you can practice:
#12 Ci Vediamo (See You)
Ci vediamo literally means “we see each other”.
- Ci vediamo più tardi (See you later)
#13 A Presto (See You Soon)
A similar parting expression is A presto. Presto means “quickly, soon or hurry”. In this case, you are telling someone you wish to meet them again soon, although you are not sure when that will happen.
#14 A Domani (Till Tomorrow)
Seeing your Italian pal again tomorrow? A domani is the greeting in Italian you'll want to use.
#15 A Dopo (See You Later)
Or you can take your leave by saying a dopo. Easy.
#16 Alla Prossima (Until Next Time)
If you are unsure when the next meetings will be, you can use alla prossima!
#17 Stammi Bene (Take Care)
Another common expression is Stammi bene. It literally means “be good for me” in the sense of “take care of yourself for my sake”.
- Statemi bene (Take care – used for two or more people)
#18 Chi Non Muore Si Rivede
A humorous greeting you’ll sometimes hear is Chi non muore si rivede, which means “whoever doesn’t die shall meet again”.
This expression is based on a popular Italian saying. It’s usually said when you (unexpectedly) meet someone again after a long time.
- Chi non muore si rivede!
Informal Ways Italian Greetings To Use With Your Italian Friends
In this section, we’ll see a couple of casual Italian greetings to say hi to friends and family.
All of the following can be considered variations of the English “Hey”.
#19 Ehilà, Ueilà or Ehi (Hey!)
- Ehilà Pietro, come va? (Hey Pietro, how is it going?)
#20 Bella! Bella zio, Bella lì
Another common greeting among the youth is Bella, Bella lì, or Bella zio. These expressions don’t have a direct translation but are used to indicate that you approve of something or someone. You can use them either as a greeting or to show you like an idea or plan.
- #20 Bella! Bella zio, Bella lì (Hi there!/ Good one! – depending on the context)
How To Greet Someone On The Phone In Italian
If you are on a telephone call with an Italian-speaking friend, you might expect the first word they say to be the familiar and multi-purpose ciao.
#21 Pronto? (Hello?)
Well, not really. Although you can use it, the standard way to answer a telephone (audio) call in Italian is by saying “pronto?”. Pronto literally means “ready”, and it’s used to establish and acknowledge the connection before the real interaction begins.
- Sì, pronto. Chi parla? (Yes, hello. Who’s speaking?)
How To Say “How Are You?” In Italian
We have looked at various Italian greetings, but the real pro move is to pair them with a question rather than use them in isolation.
#22 Come Stai? (How Are You?)
For example, as you say hi, you can ask how the other person is doing.
- Salve, come sta oggi? (Hello, how are you today?)
Come stai is used in informal settings, while come sta is reserved for formal situations.
Come stai is a curious expression. If we translate it literally, it would mean something akin to “how are you situated?”
#23 Come Va? (How's It Going?/How Are You?)
Come va is another conversation starter equivalent to the English phrase “how is it going?” It’s a fairly common expression which you can use with anyone.
Lots Of Fun Italian Greetings To Practise
Congratulations! You’ve just learned the most common Italian greetings, their varieties, and how to use them to start connecting with Italian speakers.
Pay special attention to the situation in which each greeting is used.
It will probably be confusing and challenging initially, but give it enough time, and it will become second nature.
Ciao, alla prossima!