How many ways are there to say hello in Italian?
Lots of them. Dozens, if you consider that Italian greetings vary according to the time of day and the degree of intimacy between the speakers. And on the region.
Italians have a rich social life and love to greet each other. They don’t limit themselves to words, but follow up their greetings with hugs or kisses on the cheeks (which always come in threes!).
Tre baci sulla guancia
Three kisses on the cheek
Friends usually prefer 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, welcoming, and wet.
There are so many ways to say hello in Italy that each region has its own greeting, often derived from a particular dialetto, dialect.
In this lesson, we’ll take a look at all the common greetings in standard Italian, so you can be sure to be able to use them on all your travels throughout Italy.
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 of a native speaker (that would be me!)
- the context in which the greeting is used
- the English translation and its meaning
Let’s get started! Iniziamo!
Table of Contents
How do you say hello in Italian?
Let’s start with the most common Italian greeting. This one is so internationally popular that there’s a good chance you already know the 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 it can only be used in informal scenarios.
Children use it to greet each other, as do friends and people who have known each other for a long time. You can use it to start or end a conversation, regardless of the time of day, so you can use it from early morning until late at night.
If it’s not a universal way to say hello in Italian, it’s close.
Ciao comes from the Venetian greeting s’ciavo, which is Latin for “your servant”. Today, schiavo in means slave in Italian.
Never use ciao bella to casually greet someone, even if you think you should. Unless you’re very close, it’s rude, and contrary to popular belief, it’s not that common in Italy. Italians are very friendly and easygoing, but good manners, le buone maniere, are still very important in this country.
This expression for saying hello in Italian might ring a bell if you study Latin or happened to study Latin in school.
Note for Latin learners: the Italian v is pronounced as a… v. Not as “oo”.
Hello, good day
As I said, salve comes directly from Latin. You can only use it as an initial greeting.
It’s a kind of hybrid greeting because it can be used in more formal contexts, such as when approaching 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, many find it too informal to use in job interviews or other very formal situations.
Most polite hello in Italian – Buongiorno
This is a polite greeting, but it’s also common among relatives.
Buongiorno, buon giorno
Compound: From buono, “good”, and giorno, “day”
Family members often greet each other first thing in the morning with a buongiorno. (Some don’t, too sleepy to make a sound, but they are a minority…)
Don’t use this after sunset because it can raise eyebrows. You don’t want to go around saying buongiorno when it’s dark.
For example, you would use buongiorno to say hello in Italian:
- to order a coffee in a cafeteria
- to greet your teacher
- to contact 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 is certainly one of the funniest.
Compound: From buono, “good”, and dì, “day”
At first glance, this may look like a formal hello in Italian, but don’t be fooled: it’s not. I would never use this greeting in a job interview, nor would I use it with my boss at work.
Because buondì in itself is… cheerful. Lively. It conveys a cheerfulness that isn’t always warranted in formal scenarios.
What about sharing it with friends? No problem, they’ll be impressed!
People sometimes greet each other with a buon pomeriggio between 1 pm and 6 pm.
Compound: From buono, “good”, and pomeriggio, “afternoon”
Keep in mind that buongiorno is another perfect choice for this time of day. I’d say it’s even more common than buon pomeriggio, because people are lazy and take the shorter alternative to say hello in Italian! 😉
You may get puzzled looks 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 p.m. (or as early as 4 p.m. in winter, as it gets darker faster) and the early night at 10 p.m.
Buonasera, buona sera
Compound: From buona, “good”, and sera, “evening”
Don’t use it in the morning unless you want to attract attention.
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 as a first greeting in Italian.
(Have a) nice day
Compound: From buona, “good”, and giornata, “day”
This is a way of saying goodbye. With buona giornata you wish someone a good day.
It can be used in both informal and formal situations because 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!
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Language: English / Italian
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Buona serata translates to good evening, but it’s never used to say hello in Italian.
(Have a) nice evening
Compound: From buona, “good”, and serata, “evening”
It’s the evening version of buona giornata. When you’ve had a great day with your friends and it’s time to say goodbye, you can do so with a buona serata.
It can be used in both informal and formal situations 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!
In Italian, you say buonanotte not as a hello, but as a goodbye.
Buonanotte, buona notte
Compound: From buona, “good”, and notte, “night”
Say you’ve been laughing and drinking with your friends all night, and now it’s time to go home. It’s so late that you’re all going to jump into bed as soon as you walk through your front door.
This is not the time to say buona serata. You’ll say buonanotte instead.
Buonanotte is also used by parents when putting 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 sections are a few more specific ways to say hello in Italian. Use them at the right time and place and I guarantee you will amaze your Italian friends!
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 greet someone in Italian (the first version is for greeting a man, the second is for greeting a woman) as a conversation starter after someone has arrived from a long trip.
Benarrivato, com’è andato il viaggio?
Welcome, how was your trip?
Benarrivata, come stai?
Welcome, how are you?
Benvenuto is the most common way to say 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 welcome someone to your home. You say benarrivato to someone who has traveled and has just arrived.
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 teenager, it’s Sunday morning, it’s 11 a.m., and you’ve just gotten out of bed. Your mom 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 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 to greet people in Italian as a conversation starter.
I advise against using them with strangers. They are perfect for greeting friends you haven’t seen in a while, and the last one is a pretty funny expression!
Look who’s here!
Imagine you haven’t seen a dear friend for weeks because they’ve been out of the country, and then they show up unexpectedly at your door. This is the perfect time to greet them with a ma guarda!
Sarcasm can also be conveyed with ma guarda.
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 only appropriate for use with friends. Don’t use it to greet people you don’t get along 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 is perhaps the most complicated (and fun) way to say hello in Italian. And 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 phrase is especially useful for that friend who tends to ghost, disappearing and not responding to any of your WhatsApp messages, only to suddenly reappear when you least expect it. What a surprise!
Greet them with this expression and they’re sure to be impressed.
This is the equivalent of the English Hey there, with là meaning there.
You should not use this to say hello in Italian to people you need to show some respect to.
You’ll often hear younger people and teenagers using this greeting. More often than not, it will be boys and young men, as women don’t use this greeting as often.
Aiuta Lingookies con un 👍!
Pronto? – Hello in Italian on the phone
This is a distant Imagine the phone is ringing. You pick it up. What do you say? Ciao? Buongiorno? Buonasera?
None of that. Instead, you say…
Remember, when talking on the phone, Italians start the conversation 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 finish this lesson on how to say hello in Italian, let me give you some examples of real-life conversations you’re likely to hear when 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 not sure how to greet the person in front of you, it’s always better to be a little more polite than necessary, so either start with a salve or buongiorno.
Ciao is the most common greeting in Italy, but as we’ve said, it’s reserved for friends, children and relatives. We address shopkeepers, cashiers, and the like with buongiorno instead.
You wouldn’t say hello in English either, so don’t say 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 practice what you’ve just learned!
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