8

I'm from Vietnam, and I'm learning English. I remembered someone said "Ciao" to me once. I wondered if they could speak Vietnamese since "Ciao" is the same as "Chào" in Vietnamese.

After that, he explained to me that "Ciao" can also be used in English conversation, it is the same as saying "hello" or "goodbye"...

But my understanding of that conversation may have been flawed since I am still learning. I also never see "Ciao" in English speaking and writing.

Can we use "Ciao" in English? And when can it be used?

2 Answers 2

27

It's from Italian, and it's a borrowed word in English.

American Heritage Dictionary "ciao"
interjection: Used to express greeting or farewell.

There's a history of the word at that link, which I won't quote here.

It has occasional use in English, though in English conversation it is more commonly used for farewell than as a greeting.

6
  • 20
    I'd add that it's a pretty informal word in English, and more likely to be used to say goodbye than hello (though both are possible).
    – Katy
    Dec 3, 2020 at 5:21
  • 6
    Also note that it's pronounced the way it's pronounced in Italian.
    – Void
    Dec 3, 2020 at 5:41
  • 8
    @Katy - I agree that it more often "goodbye" than "hello". I'd also add that it's not just very informal, but that some people in the US may perceive it as pretentious. It's sometimes interpreted as implying, "I am a well-traveled person who knows how they say goodbye in Europe!" Dec 3, 2020 at 15:23
  • 1
    I agree that it's usually used for "goodbye", but in the set phrase "ciao bella" it means "hello".
    – Barmar
    Dec 3, 2020 at 16:07
  • 2
    In fact, this word is actually kind of rare, at least in a big fraction of the US. It does exist and is understood, but it is not common. As was mentioned, it's very informal, and I would add that it at least can be perceived of as feminine. Slightly different nuances in usage may potentially exist though, depending on the region/country. Just be aware that this word can be perceived as too casual or potentially feminine. Dec 3, 2020 at 20:12
2

"Ciao" is a loan word from Italian. There's a lot of languages with a "hello" and/or "goodbye" that are used or at least recognized by English speakers: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Hawaiian, Russian, Hindi.

English-speaking, or at least American culture, is rather pluralistic and open to people using their own greetings. In a lot of situations, greeting people with, say, "xin chào" is fine; even if they aren't familiar with the greeting, they'll generally figure it out from context, and many people will appreciate being exposed to another culture. They might try to say it back to you, but likely not get the tones right. And if you say "chào chị" to a woman, she might say that back to you.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .