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When greeting someone, are there any subtle differences between "Ave" and "Salve"? Can both be used to greet and respond? E.g.

Marcus: Ave, Cicero.

Cicero: Salve, Marce.

Or, vice versa:

Vergilius: Salve, Ovidi.

Ovidius: Ave, Vergili.

Furthermore, is one in a higher register than the other? Would one be used more often by plebeians? Or by aristocrats?

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    My first thought is that if I ever meet a verum corpus or a Maria, I'll say ave, otherwise salve. ;) – Ben Kovitz May 12 '17 at 8:35
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Here's what I got:

Both are translated as a salutation -at times with a reference to God-, and are quite interchangeable, but they have different origins.

  • Ave comes from the imperative form of aveo, which means to be/fare well.
  • Salve comes from the imperative form of salveo, to be well/in good health. Note that this health can be physical or spiritual -salvation-, (hence God save you.)

So both are basically be well, but an emphasis -if any- might be implied in performance (ave) or health (salve).

I think the etymology means the distinction should have been valid, at least at the beginning. In contrast, ave has also been translated as God save you, e.g. at least in translations of the Hail Mary (or Lc 1, 28) to Spanish, Aragonese, Catalan and Sardinian (the Greek version uses χαῖρε as salutation, which means rejoice).

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Salve is, from what I've observed, the commoner greeting. It certainly is the one used more in Latin instruction.

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  • Salve! And welcome to the site! My experience coincides with yours: salve seems to be much more common as a greeting in modern spoken Latin than ave. Do you know if there's a difference in meaning or nuance, or does salve just happen to be the more common one? – Joonas Ilmavirta May 11 '17 at 21:17
  • I'm not sure @JoonasIlmavirta – Benjamin McAvoy-Bickford May 11 '17 at 21:51

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