Ciao, one of the Venetians’ greatest gifts to the world
Ciao… It’s a word that you hear nearly every day. Whether Italy, France, Germany, England, or the U.S.
It’s one of those words — a popular salutation — that has become a thread in the fabric of our lives. From teenagers to their grandparents, from celebrities to Joe the Plumber, from New York to Los Angeles and every neighborhood in between, even if you don’t use the word, you know what it means…
In English ciao is used exclusively as a salutation when saying good-bye.
In Italian, it’s used as both a greeting and a farewell. And when saying good-bye, Italians will often say it twice: ciao ciao…
The word comes from sixteenth-century Venetian dialect, ciao from the Latin sclavus meaning slave.
It was commonly used at the court of Venice (at the height of the Most Serene Republic of Venice) to express respect as in the saying, “I am your humble servant.”
In English it’s commonly pronounced similarly to the word chow (/ˈtʃaʊ/).
In Italian, the oh in the (letter) o is more prominent (ˈtʃaːo).
The Venetians, who have a five- as opposed to seven-vowel system (like that in Italian), emphasize all the vowels: chee-ah-oh.
Such a small word but such a great legacy. All stretching back to a form of courtesy in Renaissance Venice.