Most of us know about the Italian greeting “ciao”. But where did this common greeting originate?
According to Roberto, the greeting began centuries ago as “Schiavo Vostro”, which translates as “I am your slave”. It was not meant in the literal sense, but as a high sign of respect for the person being addressed, as in “Schiavo vostro Signor Mazzantini”.
According to Answers.com and a site called The Smiling Eggplant, the phrase is from the Venetian dialect (sciao vostro). “Schiavo” was the word used for “slave” and refers to the slavic people who were slaves in Venezia after being conquered by the Venetians.
As Roberto related to me, this was eventually shortened to “Ciao Vostro” and has now become simply the informal greeting “Ciao”, with the original meaning lost to most people.
So, now that I know what this popular greeting actually means I will use it with a little more discretion than before.