5 WORDS TO DESCRIBE ‘LOVE’ YOU’VE PROBABLY NEVER HEARD OF
Whether you think it’s overused in our society or still holds significant meaning, LOVE is a word we’re all drawn towards.
‘Love’ to the Greeks was akin to ‘Snow’ for the Inuits: one word is not enough to cover the depth of this emotion.
‘Eros’ (ἔρως), named after the Greek god of fertility, is a common Greek word many of us are familiar with in connection to ideas of love. It refers to passionate love, typically characterized by intensity (often played out in dramatic, romantic media!).
Here are five other little known words for love you might like to add to your vocabulary if ‘love’ is no longer ticking all the boxes for you:
1. ‘Agape’ (ἀγάπη)
This was the most common word for love in ancient Greek, and a sense of universality characterizes it. It is the love we might feel for broader concepts such as the love for food or nature. The term ‘agape mou’ (Αγάπη μου) is literally translated to ‘my love.’ The situations in which it is used are broad, from informal use between friends to intimate use between couples or parent and child. It’s still a popular word used in songs and poetry:
2. ‘Storge’ (στοργή)
This is the ancient Greek term for familial love. It’s similar to the love we share with romantic partners but, appropriately, without the element of sexual attraction. Characterized by a sense of instinct and familiarity, we might use ‘storge’ to describe the love we have for old school friends, our first love, or past lovers we’ve ended on good terms with.
3. ‘Philia’ (φιλíα)
Possibly my favourite on this list! The love we have for our friends or siblings is a particular type of love — separate from all others — and thankfully, the Greeks had a word for this too. Defined by an ‘affectionate regard between equals,’ philia is characterized by deep friendship and dependability.
I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light. — Helen Keller
4. ‘Philautia’ (φιλαυτία)
This word refers to self-love, and in their ancient wisdom, the Greeks acknowledged that self-love can be both healthy and unhealthy. Self-love in its unhealthiest form is characterized by self-indulgence, self-importance, and narcissism. Healthy self-love is characterized by an enhanced capacity for empathy (both for the self and others) and a wider ability to give and receive love in different forms.
If you send out goodness from yourself, or if you share that which is happy or good within you, it will all come back to you multiplied ten thousand times. — John O’Donohue
5. ‘Xenia’ (ξενία)
This is the ancient Greek concept of hospitality, generosity, and courtesy shown to those far from home. One of the things that delighted me about this word is that it is characterized by ritual and care for strangers — a sense of building community and sharing with others that at times seems to be amiss in our increasingly digitalized society. As Yeats once said:
There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.
Of course, there are so many other ways to explore and share the meaning of love through our global languages.
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