used conventionally as an utterance at meeting or parting
I said ciao and waved goodbye.

Word History


borrowed from Italian, borrowed from Upper Italian ćao, ćavo, reduced form of sćavo, sćao, literally, "slave," as a formulaic polite greeting, altered from Medieval Latin sclavus — more at slave entry 1

Note: By implication, Upper Italian sćavo, sćao presumably formed part of a collocation equivalent to "I am your servant." Cf. the parallel use of Servus as a greeting in parts of southern Germany and Austria.

First Known Use

1929, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of ciao was in 1929

Dictionary Entries Near ciao

Cite this Entry

“Ciao.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on ciao

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