Six Words for Love


The ancient Greeks would have been shocked by our crudeness in using a single word both to whisper “l love you” over a candlelit meal and to casually sign an email “lots of love.”

  • EROS (sexual passion) – [N]amed after the Greek god of fertility, and it represented the idea of sexual passion and desire. [E]ros was viewed as a dangerous, fiery, and irrational form of love that could take hold of you and possess you.
  • PHILIA (deep friendship) – It was about showing loyalty to your friends, sacrificing for them, as well as sharing your emotions with them.
  • LUDUS (playful or silly love) – [T]he affection between children or young lovers.
  • AGAPE (selfless love for the world) – This was a love that you extended to all people, whether family members or distant strangers.
  • PRAGMA (deep understanding or mature love) – [T]he deep understanding that developed between long-married couples.
  • PHILAUTIA (love of self) – One was an unhealthy variety associated with narcissism, where you became self-obsessed and focused on personal fame and fortune. A healthier version enhanced your wider capacity to love.

Couple of different linguistics articles today. Tasty, tasty words…

By Roman Krznaric via Yes! Magazine for the full article.

This entry was posted in Culture, History by Heretic. Bookmark the permalink.

About Heretic

I design video games for a living, write fiction, political theory and poetry for personal amusement, and train regularly in Western European 16th century swordwork. On frequent occasion I have been known to hunt for and explore abandoned graveyards, train tunnels and other interesting places wherever I may find them, but there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that I am preparing to set off a zombie apocalypse. Nothing that will stand up in court, at least. I use paranthesis with distressing frequency, have a deep passion for history, anthropology and sociological theory, and really, really, really hate mayonnaise. But I wash my hands after the writing. Promise.

5 thoughts on “Six Words for Love

  1. Reblogged this on thegiantsquill and commented:
    I have always held the belief that there are different kinds of love in the world, and that it why it is okay for anyone to celebrate Valentines Day, despite being in a relationship or not. The Greeks have six different words for six different kinds of love, a perfect example of the complexity of human emotion, and the difficulty of defining the emotion called love.

    • That’s a very interesting way to look at it. English is usually really flexible when it comes to language, but this is one area where it really is inadequate.

      • Isn’t that strange? But I have realized that in a quest to define love, we have writers, poets, photographers, painters…etc.. who make it their careers (some) to define it. So in a way, perhaps having just one word for “love” is not such a bad thing.

        • Ha! It’s true, ambiguity is the friend to poets.

          Though, in this case I suspect a little more distinction would still be a net win. I am reminded of the cultural linguistics study that found that individual populations speaking languages without a discrete future tense rate noticeably higher in measures of awareness of potential consequences for present actions.

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