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Looking up in dictionaries I found that bello and bella are related to beauty. Still the noun is

bello: individuo di particolare fascino.

But I've heard it in a context that I would just translate like guy or girl or man. I've heard people who tell unknowns 'grazie bella' or 'grazie bello'.

  • Is that normal without even know each other?
  • Has there the connotation of beautiful been lost?
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  • As addressed by DaG and alsa already, "bello" / "bella" used in an informal context is mostly used to express affection rather than to express a "physical" appreciation of the person you're saying it to; the other case by the way might just happen with your partner or in a more "descriptive" context, at least when addressing a person: of course rarely one goes around saying "bello" / "bella" at strangers (unless you're trying to approach someone that way, which indeed I have seen people doing)
    – kos
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 9:07
  • @kos Regarding your last sentence: as a turist, in Asti (~Torino), some guy wanted to give me some religious stamps and asked for it some small donation. I said "grazie, sono turista, non ho molto denaro" and he replied "oke, ciao bello". It's that surprise that (apparently some) people can even say that to strangers what motivated the question.
    – c.p.
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 9:12
  • I'll add that some also use, in a similar way, “caro” (literally, “dear”), just to address, say, an unknown customer.
    – DaG
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 9:20
  • Ah, indeed: people selling stuff on the streets will usually try to approach you in a way more "confidential" way (leaving aside the fact that he was leaving when he said so, I wouldn't have been surprised if he "greeted" you as "bello" in first place).
    – kos
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 9:42
  • @DaG I've seen that being done widely in Rome if I recall correctly, where IME people were generally unusually (and pleasantly I must say) charming also in a "business" context compared to where I live, where the deal is usually more "cold".
    – kos
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 9:49

5 Answers 5

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Both as an adjective and a noun, bello means of course “beautiful (person)”. But, as you have noticed, it is being used (increasingly?) as a generic appellative, in perhaps not a dissimilar way from English forms such as British “luv”, which is not used just to mean that one “loves” the person being addressed.

There is also a different use of bella! (only in the feminine form) as a «Saluto amichevole, usato diffusamente anche per esprimere consenso o intesa o come semplice intercalare» («Friendly greeting, also widely used to express agreement or mutual understanding, or just as a stock phrase»), as defined in Ambrogio & Casalegno, Scrostati gaggio!, an excellent dictionary of slang and youth languages.

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    Thanks. Does it sound like gang-language? Or is it quite informal? Or is it just an ephemeral (well, difficult to determine the future) particle without meaning, or just somebody trying to be nice?
    – c.p.
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 11:57
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    I'd say it is just generically informal and to show a friendly attitude, but I'd love to hear from other people as well.
    – DaG
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 12:06
  • It is a very informal slang IMHO. Could an equivalent in english be something like "Yo, bro" maybe? Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 11:11
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In the film "High Society" Bing Crosby says to the very young sister of his former wife (Grace Kelly) "Hello Beautiful". That's one way we use "bello" and "bella" in Italy. In this case it shows more affection than actual appreciation of beauty. There are others, of course. Sometime they are just compliments (not necessarily true ...). Sometimes they are used for teasing.

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"Che belle persone" could easily translate into "what good people" not physically, but by nature: "belli" like 'goodhearted'. Growing up with Italian as my 1st language, "bello/bella" was used a lot, more as a term of endearment. It was also used lovingly or in respect/appreciation.

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Ciao Bella can be used when talking with friends. Women use it talking to their female friends. I see it as a term of endearment.

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Besides as an adjective and noun, Bella is a also female name, following are more details about it.

It is the short form of names ending in -bella, such as Isabella and Annabella.

Bella is also a popular name related to the Italian and Latin words for beautiful, as well as the French word “Belle” – which also means beautiful! So, it is a beautiful name by definition :)

Although the name came from Italy originally, it has now been accepted all over the world including the USA, Australia & The U.K. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0E7L8Ahxus4 (I made the video)

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  • Would you please mention a single notable Italian woman named “Bella”?
    – DaG
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 22:28

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