Meaning “Hello beautiful”, this expression is probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the stereotypical Italian. I can no longer say, however, that it’s used only by Italians, since it has now spread worldwide: just think of the German “Tschao” or the expression “Ciao for now!”.
Apparently short and simple, this word has a long story behind it: it traces back to the the late 19th and early 20th century, but its ethymology is far more old since the word originated from the Venetian language. Ciao comes in fact from the Venetian version of “at your service”, namely “s-ciàvo vostro” which translates “I’m your slave”.
This is basically the path followed by the word:
s-ciàvo vostro! → s-ciào! → ciao!
*none of the pictures used in this post is mine, they all come from Pinterest*