Although one of the most popular phrases associated with Italy, ‘Ciao,’ is an informal salutation often used for “hello” and “goodbye”, what you may not know is that ‘Ciao’ itself has a medieval Greek origin.
This famous greeting derives from the Venetian greeting, ‘s-ciào Vostro’ (or ‘s-ciào su’), meaning “(I am) your slave,” which at the time, people used to express respect.
The Venetian word s-ciào [ˈstʃao] or s-ciàvo, in turn, derives from Medieval Latin sclavus, which was merely a loanword from Medieval Greek Σκλάβος [skla.vos], which was used to indicate people of Slavic ethnicity, from which the majority of slaves at the time were.
This greeting was eventually shortened to ciào, lost all its servile connotations, and came to be used as an informal salutation by speakers of all classes.
Northern Italian people adopted the Venetian ciào during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Later it became common elsewhere in Italy with the spelling ciao, and it has since spread to many countries in Europe, along with other items of Italian culture.
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