Italian Phrase of the Week: Ciao ciao! (Bye bye!)

People across the world are familiar with the informal Italian greeting Ciao! (pronounced CHOW) which can be used at the start of a conversation to greet someone, or at end of a conversation to sign off. The meaning is exactly the same as Hi! and Bye! in English.

Ciao Enrica, come stai?

Hi Enrica, how are you?


Ciao Enrica, ci vediamo domani!

Bye Enrica, see you tomorrow!


However did you know that the doubled Ciao ciao! is also an extremely common greeting?

Unlike ciao on its own, ciao ciao is only ever used at the end of a conversation when saying goodbye to someone. It can be compared to the English Bye bye!, although I’d say it is used far more often!

Ok, ci vediamo presto, ciao ciao…

Ok, see you soon, bye bye…


Those really in a hurry to sign off might repeat ciao three or four times in a row with short pauses in between (particularly on the phone).

The verb fare ciao refers to the gesture of opening and closing one’s hand in greeting. Parents often say this to their children to encourage them to say hello or goodbye to other people.

Fai ciao alla mamma. Brava!

Say hello/goodbye to mummy. Good girl!


Note that ciao is almost always used with people you know well, or in other words, those with whom you’d feel comfortable using the personal pronoun tu (you, informal). You’d be walking on dangerous ground if you used ciao with the prime minister or your stuffy boss! 😉

Did you know that…?
The word ciao derives from the Venetian greeting s-ciào vostro meaning ‘I am your slave‘. The expression was not a literal statement, but rather an idiomatic way of saying “if you ever need help, you can count on me“. Source: Scuolitalia

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