What is the difference between adiós and chau?

Do they both mean "goodbye"?


  • I am going now, see you tomorrow, ¡adiós!
  • I am going now, see you tomorrow, ¡chau!

2 Answers 2


Traditionally, adiós is used for someone leaving for an extended period of time or with no expectation of seeing them again.

Chau is informal, and would virtually always imply you'd be expecting to see them again relatively soon.

If you're leaving work and going to meet up with coworkers later for drinks, chau is better than adiós. If you're going abroad and won't see your parents for a year or two, adiós is better. If you go to a store and the worker there didn't expect to see you ever again, they'll probably use adiós, but if it's a corner store and they know, you're more likely to hear chau.

Modern usage may vary some, and different countries may treat them slightly differently (and certainly there dozens more with similar but not exactly the same connotations), but the distinction ought to hold up pretty panhispanicly.

  • Muchas gracias Guifa!
    – Amit Verma
    Commented Jul 5, 2015 at 13:42
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    You definitely hear "chau" in Chile and Peru. I'm pretty sure it will be recognized in Colombia, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Commented Jul 6, 2015 at 10:25
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    @eduyayo They don't use podés instead of puedes, they simply use vos instead of . There is absolutely nothing incorrect about it. There are plenty of words that have been imported across the Spanish speaking world that I find absolutely hideous sounding, but chao has been so well integrated that, apart from its informality, I can't imagine why anyone has a problem with it except for using it in formal contexts. Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 0:55
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    @eduyayo read what I said carefully. In Argentina, they do not replace puedes with podés. They replace with vos. Vos, in turn, has a different conjugation paradigm, thus obligating the use podés. When answering the question ¿Cómo estás? with Estoy bien, one isn't relaxing estás with estoy, rather tú with yo. That estoy changes to estás is quite secondary to the main change — a different subject. Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 10:17
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    @eduyayo te confundes el vos reverencial con el vos informal, que tienen paradigmas de conjugación diferentes (y de todas formas, como rechazas evoluciones lingüísticas, debe reconocer la forma verdaderamente correcta: vos estades). Como asturfalante, te puedo asegurar que la situación de ye es muy diferente. Ye es la correcta conjugación de ser en asturiano. Usar ye en castellano es hablar en amestáu, el cual ni es propiamente castellano ni asturiano. Recomiéndote aprender un poco de la historia de la lengua, o bien leer las secciones relevantes de la Gramática de la RAE. Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 10:38

They mean the same. Chao (or chau) is a bit more informal. It comes from the Italian ciao, which also means "goodbye" (in Italian).

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    In italian, ciao also means hello if I'm not mistaken. ;) Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 15:32
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    @Anoldmaninthesea. It does, indeed; but in Spanish, we only use it meaning "good bye".
    – Gorpik
    Commented Jul 6, 2015 at 7:44

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