As a writer and especially as a poet, I am often frustrated with the English language. Many older languages have multiple words to express the nuances of a concept while English can only come up with one all encompassing word. I think we need to take a cue from these older languages and start expanding the English language and I’m not talking about all of these horrible slang words that are just embarrassing.
With Valentine’s Day being last week and me being perpetually single and a bit sad about it, I started thinking about love and how strange it is that we only have one word for love when there are so many different types of love. From what I understand, Sanskrit has 96 words for love so it seems absurd that English only has one. I’m assuming that it is because we only seem to really value one kind of love, the romantic kind of love. As an act of self care and reaccepting my single status, I decided to explore different kinds of love and learn some new words.
In the interest of keeping it simple, I left Sanskrit alone and looked to other languages. Of course I came across the words for love in Greek. Who hasn’t heard “agape love” at least once?
There may be more but I was able to find 7 different words for different kinds of love.
Agape love is the kind of love you feel for everyone. As a Christian, I’ve heard this type of love preached about quite frequently. It is the highest form of Christian love. I’m pretty sure it is found in other religions as well. It is selfless and given equally to everyone from close friends to complete strangers. It is based on empathy which seems to be on the decline with people and needs to be revived.
Philautia is self love. For as much as we hear the term self love, I’m surprised I have never heard this word. The idea is that a person has to like themselves and feel secure in who they are and it will increase that person’s capacity to love others.
Philia is the love that comes from deep friendship. It is the kind of love that develops from long friendships or from being comrades in arms. It is loyal and sacrificial.
Storge is the love that exists in families, particularly the love parents have for their children. It’s typically thought of as the love and loyalty that exists naturally between blood relatives but it can also develop in long term friendships or cohabitation situations.
This one might not be Greek but it’s such a great concept I had to include it. Ludus is the playful love that exists between children and young lovers. We also experience this kind of love at the beginning of new relationships in the infatuation stage. It doesn’t have to end when we grow up or as our relationships mature. This kind of love can to lived out through playful activities with people we care for such as dancing or laughing with friends.
Eros is erotic love. This seems to be the only kind of love you hear much about in English. This is the love that is filled with passion and desire. It is also dangerous. It can possess you and take control. We tend to view this as a positive where the ancient Greeks saw it as a negative. I mean, if we are honest, we all want to experience this kind of love even though it will probably burn us.
Pragma is longstanding love. It develops in long marriages. It requires patience, tolerance, and compromise. People always argue with me when I say this but I believe that love is a choice and this kind of love only exists when two people choose to have it. It is helpful if both people have similar goals and are willing to work together as partners. Some would say that it is realistic and more business-like. I’m not sure I agree based on the definitions I found and what I’ve seen from long-term marriages.
Ok, so using Greek words isn’t exactly expanding the English language but I think it is very important for this society to start valuing the multiple types of love that exist instead of focusing on just one. Far too many people don’t take relationships seriously, especially friendships, and that needs to change. The other thing that needs to change is people being made to feel like they are less than and not valuable if they don’t have one kind of love. Reminding myself to value all types of love instead of just one was the whole reason I started looking into this.
I hope that this also helps any of you who might be going through the same thing. Tell me what other words for love you use.