Greek Words for Love

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8 Greek Words for Love and Their Fascinating Meaning

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The vocabulary for coffee drinks has become very elaborate nowadays. Would you prefer a cappuccino, an espresso, a non-fat latte, or perhaps a cold caramel macchiato? Greeks were scared of the lack of control that came with Eros.

The ancient Greeks had a sophisticated way of talking about love and recognized six different types. They would have been surprised by the crudeness of modern language, where we use a single word for both expressing deep affection over a romantic dinner and for casually signing off an email.

Can you tell me about the six types of love that the Greeks talked about? And is there a way we can expand our thinking beyond just romantic love, which young people often struggle with as they seek a perfect partner to fulfill all their emotional desires?


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1. Agape

This type of love, known as agape or selfless love, was an extraordinary form of love that one could offer to all individuals, not only to family members but also to strangers. Later, agape was translated to “caritas” in Latin, which is where the word “charity” originated.

C.S. Lewis called it “gift love,” the most superior form of love in Christianity. However, it is present in other religions as well, such as the concept of “mettā” or “universal loving kindness” in Theravāda Buddhism. Studies indicate that “agape” is decreasingly present in many countries, with empathy levels in the U.S. dropping significantly over the last 40 years, and the steepest fall observed in the past ten years. It is crucial that we restore our ability to empathize with strangers as soon as possible.

2. Eros

The Greeks had a term for sexual passion and desire called “eros,” after the Greek god of fertility. However, they did not always regard it positively and saw it as a perilous, intense, and illogical form of love. This opinion was shared by many spiritual leaders, including Christian writer C. S. Lewis.

It is strange that the Greeks were frightened by the loss of control brought about by Eros because nowadays, many people desire to experience that same loss of control in a relationship. Falling “madly” in love is a common hope for many.

3. Storge

Storge refers to the natural love that exists between family members. It is exemplified by the love parents share with their children and the love that siblings have for each other. Storge can also be observed in more distant family relationships, such as the affection a grandparent has for a grandchild, or the love an uncle feels for a niece.

4. Philia

The Greeks valued the type of love called “philia” or friendship more highly than the sexual love of “eros”. “Philia” involved a strong bond between comrades who fought together on the battlefield. It meant being loyal, making sacrifices, and sharing emotions with friends. There’s another type of “philia” called “storge” which describes the love between parents and children.

In this day and age of gathering social media “friends” and “followers”, it’s crucial to question how much true friendship and comradery we have in our lives. This is a significant inquiry, considering that the Greeks wouldn’t have valued these modern achievements.

5. Ludus

The ancient Greeks valued three types of love. Apart from serious philia, there was also a playful kind of love that involved children or casual lovers. Scholars, like philosopher A.C. Grayling, use the Latin term “ludus” to describe this form of love. We experience it through flirting and teasing during the initial stages of a relationship.

We also express our playful side or ludus when we socialize with friends, exchanging witty remarks and sharing laughter in a bar setting or when we engage in dancing. Dancing with unfamiliar people could be considered the epitome of a ludic experience, an enjoyable alternative to sexual activities. Although society may disapprove of such light-hearted behavior among adults, incorporating more ludus in our lives may add a little excitement to our romantic relationships.

6. Pragma

John Allen Lee, a Canadian sociologist, popularized the use of the ancient Greek root “pragma” as a form of love in the 1970s. Lee described pragma as a mature love that is often present in long-established couples. Pragma involves making compromises to help the relationship last and displaying patience and tolerance. While there is little evidence that the Greeks used this specific term themselves, it can be seen as a modern interpretation of ancient Greek love.

Erich Fromm, a famous psychoanalyst, believes that people focus too much on “falling in love” instead of learning how to “stand in love.” This is where the concept of Pragma comes in, which means making an effort to give love instead of just receiving it. Given that one-third of first marriages in the US end in divorce or separation within the first ten years, it’s essential to consider incorporating a serious amount of Pragma into our relationships.

7. Philautia

The Greeks defined a sixth type of love called “philautia,” which refers to self-love. Aristotle identified two types of philautia: a negative version linked to narcissism, which causes one to become self-centered and concentrated on achieving personal success and glory, and a positive version that strengthens one’s ability to love others. No new details or facts are included in this rewrite.

The concept is that by having self-compassion and feeling secure about oneself, one can have an abundance of love to give to others, as reflected in the Buddhist philosophy. Aristotle similarly said that one’s friendly emotions towards others stem from their own emotions towards themselves.

8. Mania

Original Greek: μανία (manía)

Mania is a form of love that can become obsessive and even reach the point of madness. It is not a healthy type of love and is often associated with jealousy and stalking, as felt by a jilted lover or those dealing with mental illness. The Greeks also recognized the negative effects of mania.

The origin of the English words “mania,” “maniac,” and “manic,” as well as the combining form “-mania” is the Greek language. This term is commonly used to describe obsessive behaviors in words such as “pyromania” and “egomania.”

The Greeks had various kinds of love in relationships with different types of people such as friends, family, spouses, strangers, and themselves. This is different from our usual emphasis on only one romantic relationship where we expect to find all types of love in one person or soul mate. The Greeks advise us to cherish different kinds of love and find them from various sources. Instead of just searching for romantic love, we can develop love for friends (philia) by spending more time with them or have playful love (ludus) by dancing all night long.

In, it’s important to let go of the idea of perfection when it comes to relationships. Avoid expecting your partner to fulfill all your love needs constantly (which may lead to the risk of losing a partner who doesn’t match your expectations). Understand that a relationship may start with passionate love (eros) and playful love (ludus) and then develop into more practical love (pragma) or unconditional love (agape).

By examining the presence of all six types of love in your life according to the Greek system, you may realize that you have more love in your life than you previously thought, even if you lack a romantic partner.

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