Italian word of the day: ‘Salve’

Italian word of the day: 'Salve'
Photo: DepositPhotos
Say hello to this classic Italian greeting.

One of the best things about speaking Italian is occasionally – just occasionally – getting the chance to pretend you're an Ancient Roman. Or is that just us?

Modern Italian's Latin roots are nowhere more obvious than in the word salve, a way to say 'hello' (or if you're feeling truly classical, 'hail').

It comes from the Latin verb salvere, meaning 'to be well'. The Romans used it as a command ('Be well!') when they wanted to wish someone good health, and from there it became the greeting Italians use today.

It's more polite than ciao, so you're more likely to hear it used between colleagues or strangers than close friends. But there's nothing stopping you from saying it in informal contexts: it all depends on tone of voice.

Salve Professoressa Bianchi, come sta?
Hello Professor Bianchi, how are you?

Salve ragazzi! Come va?
Hi guys! How are you?

The other advantage of salve is that it bypasses any confusion over whether it's time to wish someone buongiorno (good morning) or buonasera (good afternoon/evening).

Make it your go-to greeting at any time of day in shops, at restaurants, in the office, with neighbours you don't know that well, to strangers you meet in the hallway – or passing Roman centurions.

Do you have a favourite Italian word, phrase or expression you'd like us to feature? If so, please email our editor Jessica Phelan with your suggestion.