How many ways are there to say hello in Italian?
Plenty. Dozens if we consider that Italian greetings vary based on the time of day and the grade of intimacy between the speakers. And on the region.
Italians know how to live a rich social life and love to say hello to one another. They don’t limit themselves to words but follow up their greetings with hugs or kisses on the cheeks (that always come in threes!).
Tre baci sulla guancia
Three kisses on the cheek
Friends usually favor hugs, while relatives exchange kisses on both cheeks after not seeing each other for a while.
For this reason, Italian national holidays such as Christmas and Easter are very warm, welcomed, and wet.
Italian ways of saying hello are so many that each region has its different greetings that are often derived from a specific dialetto, dialect.
In this lesson, we’ll take a look at all the common greetings in standard Italian so you can rest assured you’ll be able to use them throughout Italy in all your travels.
So, what are the different ways to say hello in Italian? Let’s find out in this ultimate guide to Italian greetings.
For each hello you’ll find:
- an audio recording from a native speaker (that would be me!)
- the context where the greeting is used
- the translation into English and its meaning
Let’s start! Iniziamo!
How do you say hello in Italian?
Let’s start with the most common Italian greeting. This is so internationally popular that there’s a good chance you already know what word I’m about to teach you.
Most common hello in Italian – Ciao
Ciao is universally known as the Italian greeting par excellence, per eccellenza. It’s not a universal greeting, however, as you can only use it in informal scenarios.
Kids use it to greet each other, as well as friends and people who have known each other for a long time. You can use it for both starting or ending a conversation, regardless of the time of day so you can use it from early morning to night.
If it’s not a universal way to say hello in Italian, it’s at least almost there.
Ciao comes from the Venetian greeting s’ciavo, which originates from Latin as “your servant”. Nowadays, schiavo in Italian means slave.
Never use ciao bella to casually greet someone, even if you think you should. If you’re not on very close terms, it’s rude, and contrary to belief it’s not at all that common in Italy. Italians are very friendly and at ease, but good manners, le buone maniere, are still very important in this country.
This expression to say hello in Italian might ring a bell if you study or happened to study Latin at school.
Note for Latin learners: the Italian v is pronounced as a… v. Not as “oo”.
Hello, good day
As said, salve comes directly from Latin. You can use it only as an initial greeting.
It’s kind of a hybrid greeting because it can be used in somewhat formal contexts, such as when you approach a shopkeeper. It’s a friendly way to say hello in Italian and to put people at ease.
Salve, mi sa dire come raggiungere la stazione?
Hello, can you tell me how to get to the station?
However, it is considered by many too informal to be used in job interviews or any other very formal situations.
Most polite hello in Italian – Buongiorno
This is a polite greeting, but it’s common to hear it among relatives as well.
Buongiorno, buon giorno
Compound: From buono, “good”, and giorno, “day”
Family members often greet each other with a buongiorno first thing in the morning. (Some don’t, as they are too sleepy to even utter a sound, but they are a minority…)
Don’t use this after sunset as it can raise eyebrows. You don’t want to go around saying buongiorno when it’s dark.
You would use buongiorno as a hello in Italian, for example:
- to order a coffee at a cafeteria
- to greet your teacher
- to approach somebody at a help desk
- at the post office
Any public place.
Buongiorno. Un caffè, per favore.
Good morning. A coffee, please.
Good morning, teacher.
Buongiorno, mi può cambiare queste banconote?
Good morning, could you change these bills for me?
Buongiorno, dovrei spedire questa lettera.
Good morning, I need to send this letter.
Buondì is not a very common way to say hello in Italian, but it sure is one of the funniest ones.
Compound: From buono, “good”, and dì, “day”
At first glance it might look like a formal hello in Italian, but don’t be fooled: it isn’t. I would never use this greeting first thing during a job interview, nor would I use it with my boss at work.
This is because buondì in itself is… merry. Lively. It conveys cheerfulness that’s not always warranted in formal scenarios.
What about using it with friends? There’s no problem, they would be impressed!
People sometimes greet each other with a buon pomeriggio between 1 pm and 6 pm.
Compound: From buono, “good”, and pomeriggio, “afternoon”
Remember that buongiorno is another perfect choice for this time of day. I’d say it’s even more common than buon pomeriggio, as people are lazy and go for the shorter alternative to say hello in Italian! 😉
You may get puzzled glances if you use this after sunset.
Buon pomeriggio. Posso disturbarla un momento?
Good afternoon. May I disturb you for a moment?
Buonasera is the perfect way to say hello in Italian to strangers during the evening hours, say between 6 pm (or as early as 4 pm in winter, as it turns dark faster) and the early night at 10 pm.
Buonasera, buona sera
Compound: From buona, “good”, and sera, “evening”
You don’t use this in the morning unless you want to attract side glances.
Buonasera can only be used to start a conversation.
Buonasera a tutti!
Good evening everyone!
Buonasera, vorrei un Martini.
Good evening, I would like a martini.
Buonasera, sa per caso dove posso parcheggiare?
Good evening, do you happen to know where I can park?
Buona giornata translates to good day, but it’s never used to say hello in Italian as an initial greeting.
(Have a) nice day
Compound: From buona, “good”, and giornata, “day”
This is a way of saying goodbye. With buona giornata, you’re wishing someone to have a good day.
It can be used in informal and formal situations alike, as it’s both friendly and polite. You can even use it in combination with other greetings.
Ciao e buona giornata.
Bye and have a nice day.
Arrivederci e buona giornata.
Goodbye and have a nice day.
A domani, buona giornata!
See you tomorrow, have a nice day!
Buona serata translates to good evening, but it’s never used to say hello in Italian as an initial greeting.
(Have a) nice evening
Compound: From buona, “good”, and serata, “evening”
It’s the evening variant of buona giornata. If you’ve enjoyed a nice day out with your friend and it’s time to say goodbye, you can do so with a buona serata.
It can be used in informal and formal situations alike and in combination with other greetings.
Ciao e buona serata.
Bye and have a nice evening.
Ci vediamo, buona serata!
See you, have a nice evening!
You say buonanotte not as a hello in Italian, but as a parting greeting.
Buonanotte, buona notte
Compound: From buona, “good”, and notte, “night”
Say you’ve been laughing and drinking all evening with your friends and it’s now time to go home. It’s so late that you all will be jumping into your beds as soon as you get through your house door.
This is no time to say buona serata. You’ll say buonanotte instead.
Buonanotte is also used by parents when they put their children to bed.
Buonanotte e sogni d’oro.
Good night and sweet dreams.
Ci vediamo domani, buonanotte!
See you tomorrow, good night!
Less obvious ways to say hello in Italian
The greetings in the following paragraphs are a little more specific ways of saying hello in Italian.
Use them at the right time and in the right place and I guarantee you will awe your Italian pals!
Benarrivato, ben arrivato
Compound: From bene, “well”, and arrivato, “arrived”
Benarrivata, ben arrivata
Compound: From bene, “well”, and arrivata, “arrived”
You can say these sentences to say hello in Italian (the first version is to welcome a male, the second version for welcoming females) as conversation starters after someone arrived from a long journey.
Benarrivato, com’è andato il viaggio?
Welcome, how was your trip?
Benarrivata, come stai?
Welcome, how are you?
Benvenuto is the most common way of saying welcome in Italian.
Compound: From bene, “well”, and venuto, “come”
Compound: From bene, “well”, and venuta, “come”
Benvenuto is slightly different from benarrivato, though.
You say benvenuto to bid welcome to someone to your house. You say benarrivato to someone who took a journey and has just arrived at your place.
Benvenuto a casa mia!
Welcome to my place!
In movies, you can hear…
Benvenuto nella mia umile dimora!
Welcome to my humble abode!
Imagine this scenario: you’re a teen, it’s Sunday morning, it’s 11 am, and you just got out of bed. Your mum says…
“Look who woke up!” (male)
Compound: From bene, “well”, and alzato, “raised”
“Look who woke up!” (female)
Compound: From bene, “well”, and alzata, “raised”
This is a somewhat funny way to say hello in Italian to a late sleeper!
Oh, ben alzato!
Oh, look who woke up!
Colloquial ways to say hello in Italian
What you’re about to read are more colloquial ways for greeting people in Italian as conversation starters.
I advise you against using them with strangers. They are perfect for greetings friends you haven’t seen in a while and the last is a pretty funny expression!
Look who’s here!
Imagine you haven’t seen a dear friend for weeks because they went abroad and then they show up unexpectedly at your door. This is a perfect time to greet them with a ma guarda!.
Ma guarda can also be used to convey sarcasm.
Chi si vede!
Chi si vede!
“Who one sees!”
Look who’s here!
This is another lively and cheerful way to say hello in Italian to someone who pays you a surprise visit.
As for ma guarda!, this is appropriate to use with friends only. Don’t use it to greet people you aren’t on good terms with.
Chi non muore si rivede!
Chi non muore si rivede!
“Who doesn’t die is to be seen again!”
Look who’s here!
This one is maybe the most complicated (and funny) way to bid hello in Italian. Why is that? Let’s analyze this expression:
- chi, who
- non muore, doesn’t die
- si rivede, is to be seen again (literally: one sees again)
Rivede is a conjugation of rivedere, to see again.
This expression is especially useful for that friend who’s prone to ghosting and just disappears and doesn’t reply to any of your WhatsApp messages, only to suddenly reappear when you least expect them to. What a surprise!
Say hello to them with this expression and they’ll be surely impressed.
This is the equivalent of the English Hey there, with là being there.
You shouldn’t be using this to say hello in Italian to people you have to show some respect to.
You’ll often hear younger people and teens greeting with this. More often than not they will be boys and young men, as women don’t use this greeting as much.
Aiuta Lingookies con un 👍!
Pronto? – Hello in Italian on the phone
This is a remote greeting. Imagine the phone ringing. You pick up. What do you say? Ciao? Buongiorno? Buonasera?
None of that. Instead, you say…
Remember: when talking over the phone, Italians pick up the line with a Pronto?, which literally means “Ready?”.
Pronto, parlo con il signor Franchi?
Hello, is this Mr. Franchi speaking?
Hello in Italian – Real-life examples
Before we wrap up this lesson on how to say hi in Italian, let me make a few examples from real-life conversations that you’ll be very likely to hear if you travel to Italy.
Ciao, come stai?
Hi, how are you?
Ciao, come va?
Hi, how’s it going?
Ciao, da quanto tempo!
Hi, long time no see!
Ciao, che piacere rivederti!
Hi, nice to see you again!
Salve, mi sa dire come arrivare all’hotel?
Hi, can you tell me how to get to the hotel?
Buongiorno, piacere di conoscerla.
Good morning, nice to meet you.
Buonanotte, a domani.
Good night, see you tomorrow.
Ciao, ci vediamo oggi pomeriggio.
Bye, see you this afternoon.
Buongiorno, vorrei una brioche.
Good morning, I would like a pastry.
What if my tongue is tied?
If you’re in doubt about how to say hello to the person in front of you, it is always better to be a little more polite than needed, so either start with a salve or buongiorno.
Ciao is indeed the most common greeting in Italy, but as already said it’s reserved for friends, kids, and relatives. We address shopkeepers, cashiers, and the like with buongiorno instead.
You wouldn’t say hello in English either, so don’t do it in Italian.
That’s it! Now you know everything you need to say hello in Italian. Che aspetti? What are you waiting for? Plan a trip to Italy and test what you’ve just learned!
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