CIAO! What is the origin of the most used greeting in the world?

Ciao is a form of friendly and informal greeting used in the Italian language for both “hello” and goodbye” , while in more formal situations are used less direct forms such as ” e “buongiorno”, “arrivederci”, “salve”, etc… Originally, this greeting was far from being confidential, it meant total submission and respect (even if only formally) much more than current buongiorno e buonasera!

Our “Ciao!” comes from the word schiavo [slave]. Greeting by saying “slave” may seem strange. But as well as other expressions of greeting – such as “servo suo” [His servant] – were used to express deep respect or value, and someone wanted to renew this respect at every meeting symbolically putting himself at the disposal of the other as a servant, as a slave. The expression “your slave” or “your servant”, common in Italy centuries ago, can be found, among other things, in the comedies of Goldoni (1707-1793). Even now, in Austria and Bavaria a common greeting is “servus” and even in Italy someone still says ” servo suo!” [his servant].

The word slave comes from the Latin but it was not used by the ancient Romans. In ancient Rome  to indicate the slave understood in the modern sense it was used the word “servus”. Only later, when in late antiquity the people of Slavonia (Sclavi or Slavi) came into contact with the Romans, they became just the last people to be subjected to slavery, so the term “Slavic” or “Sclavus” indicating only ethnicity, became general indicating the status of belonging and was applied to those people who were previously the “servants”.

But love, ironically, meant that the term slave then passed to those who put his heart in the service of a woman, the cavalier servant, the “cicisbeo”, the lover, so that in Venice, the most passionate lovers called their selves “slaves” of the loved lady, and since they said it in Venetian dialect, they said ” s’ciavo”  instead of “sclavus” with meaning your slave! At the time of the Venetian Republic it became customary to greet in this way, regardless of social class.

Starting from the IXX century the Venetian greeting  ” s’ciavo” spread as an informal greeting first in Lombardy, where he was altered by assuming the “ciao” sound and it was the “ciao” coming from Lombardy to make a fortune in the next century and spread throughout the country.

The original ” s’ciavo”  form still exists in Venetian and Venetian dialect, used as an exclamation or to express resignation and in the dialect of Bergamo, Brescia and Ticino (Italian Switzerland) to express relief at one escaped trouble.

Ciao word has spread around the world following the migrations of Italian, it is one of the most famous words of the Italian language in the world and entered as an informal greeting even in the German and French lexicon (tschao), Hungarian (CSAO), Spanish (chao), Portuguese (tchau), Albanian (CaO / qao), Bosnian (CAO), Bulgarian, Macedonian, Russian (чао / CAO), Czech, Latvian (Čau), esperanto, Slovak, Slovenian (CAU), Estonia ( Tsau), Lithuanian (ciau), Maltese (CAW), Romanian (ciau), Serbian, Croatian (ћао, CaO), turkish (Cav), Vietnamese (chào).

The word Ciao as separation greeting can also be doubled: ciao, ciao! Ciao, is also used in the expression “fare ciao” referring to the way of greeting that makes opening and closing the hand. It is also used to indicate the definitive end of something for example: dopo un anno di matrimonio si è stancato e ciao!  [after a year of marriage he was tired and hello!]

Freely inspired from the following sources: Wikipedia, http://www.etimoitaliano.it/2006/12/ciao.html, http://unaparolaalgiorno.it/significato/C/ciao, http://www.impariamocuriosando.it/content/qual-e-lorigine-della-parola-ciao, http://www.focus.it/cultura/curiosita/come-e-nata-la-parola-ciao-1, http://www.liberoricercatore.it/Cultura/pillole/ciao.htm, http://www.treccani.it/vocabolario/ciao