Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Being specific: different ways to say ‘hello’

Being specific: different ways to say ‘hello’
Never let it be said that us Italians are fans of keeping things simple. Traditions and unspoken rules are very important to us. And sometimes, it means things can get complicated.
Take the word ‘hello’ for example. Most English speakers know what it means and exactly how to use it. Sometimes it may be shortened to a ‘hi’, ‘hey’ or ‘yo’, but essentially, the meanings are all the same. But in Italy, we take something as simple as ‘hello’ and add a dozen variations. It can make things pretty confusing for visitors just wanting offer a friendly greeting to a local in their own language.
Here’s a rundown on some variations:
Ciao – Informal hello. (Also means goodbye.)
Salve – More formal, used when you don’t know someone.
Pronto – Saying hello when answering the phone.
Incantato – And old fashioned way of expressing pleasure/enchantment at meeting someone.
Buongiorno – Formal, good morning/day.
Buonpomeriggio – Formal, good afternoon.
Buonasera – Formal, good evening.
Benvenuto – Welcome, (saying hello when you’re the host).