How do you define love? Is it something that makes you sing and dance from happiness, feel butterflies in your stomach, or make you care for the other person? What about those moments when all that you want is to rip your partner’s clothes off? Is it still love? What if you could figure out the “recipe” for it?
Fear not, the Ancient Greek philosophers have already done the hard work and defined different types of love. Here are nine Greek words for love that will help you understand how complicated this feeling can be and how each kind of love may differ and how they can combine.
1. Eros: sexual desire
In Ancient Greek mythology, Eros (ἔρως) was a mischievous god of passion and fertility, who was shooting arrows into the hearts of people and immortals and making them feel a sudden overwhelming desire for each other. Although this desire can be interpreted as love, it is primarily physical attraction. That’s where the terms “erotic” and “erotica” came from that nowadays describe human sexuality.
It is common to mistake lust – or sexual desire – for romantic love. Sexual attraction can be a potent and overwhelming sensation, and even fool the brain into questionable decision-making. However, although the sexual desire is not a type of love in and of itself, it is frequently an essential component of love, especially between romantic couples.Sexual attraction can be a potent and overwhelming sensation, and even fool the brain into questionable decision-making. Click To Tweet
2. Philia: soul connection
In contrast to the physical, sexual nature of Eros, Philia (φιλία) is a platonic feeling. This Greek word for love implies spiritual connection, trust, and sharing of the same values. Philia usually grows between friends or family members. While it is not as overwhelming, euphoric, or exciting as Eros, it is often more fulfilling and rewarding in the long term.
Philia is not relegated to non-sexual and non-romantic relationships, however. It is a vital component of romantic love between couples, and any connection without it is not likely to last. A love that features Eros but not Philia is often a possessive, self-centered love.
Ancient Greek philosophers (as well as many psychologists today) believed that the two work best alongside each other, strengthening each other and the bond between two people. Adding Philia to Eros turns a possessive love into one built around shared goals and happiness. The Greek philosopher Plato believed that the combination of Philia and Eros led to the highest form of love – a “friendship between lovers.”
3. Storge: devoted love
Storge (στοργή) can be classified as a variation of Philia and usually relates to love within a family. While the care and devotion of Storge is an integral part of Philia’s connection, it may also be one-sided. An excellent example of Storge is when a parent cares for a child, makes them feel secure, comfortable, and safe, and don’t expect anything in return.
Although Storge may seem like an antidote of Eros, they both tend to be highly natural, biological, and instinctual. Storge usually occurs between married couples who are raising a family together. This form of love is valued in Western culture, particularly within the Christian faith.
4. Pragma: mature love
Although probably the least exciting type of love, Pragma (πράγμα) is an essential component of making relationships work in the long term. Pragma is love based on duty, reason, and shared goals. Like Philia, Pragma is not limited to romantic partnerships, although it is a vital part of romantic love. It is essential within families and even close friendships. Examples of Pragma manifestation are personal sacrifices for your partner’s benefit, making life and career choices that are best for your relationship rather than just yourself, and carrying out the daily chores and tasks needed to maintain a happy home.
Pragma love is perhaps the most difficult to develop and maintain, as it requires continual effort, dedication, and often selflessness. However, the results are often extremely worthwhile in the long-term. Even arranged marriages have been sustained and made satisfying through Pragma, and many failing relationships have been saved.
This type of love can be seen as the day-to-day “admin” of maintaining a relationship, but partnerships without Pragma are unlikely to withstand the challenges of time.
5. Ludus: playful love
Ludus (Παιχνίδια) is another Greek word for love that is perhaps the polar opposite of Pragma. While Pragma is long-term, cerebral, and based around responsibilities, Ludus is carefree and playful love.
Imagine a hedonistic casual relationship that is focused on fun and living in the moment, and you’ll have an excellent example of Ludus. It is often expressed through flirting and teasing, seduction, and casual sex. Although the thrill of sexual conquest is a form of Ludus, these relationships are not necessarily selfish or shallow – they may be fulfilling to both parties if mutual respect is shown, and come with less responsibility and commitment than other kinds of love.
Ludus shares many qualities with Eros, but it is not limited to physical or sexual relationships. Ludus love can also comprise non-sexual activities such as dancing, drinking, and other sensory pleasures that one can enjoy.
6. Mania: obsessive love
Have you ever met anybody obsessed with a particular individual to the point where it seems unhealthy? And maybe you even called them a maniac? Greek philosophers labeled this type of love as Mania (μανία).
It can be combined with sexual and hedonistic Eros and Ludus but will hardly accompany Pragma or Philia. Mania often manifests through anxiety, emotional instability, jealousy, and possessiveness.
These days “mania,” and its derivation “manic” are used in the field of psychiatry to describe components of certain mental illnesses, as well as being used in less formal settings to define hyper obsession or fixation.
Even though a slight obsession can be fairly common during the early stages of a relationship, in the long term, excess of Mania that is unbalanced by other forms of love can lead to dependency and even stalking or violence.
7. Meraki: creative endeavors
Greek word Meraki (μεράκι) means to do something with love, creativity, and devotion when you wholeheartedly put yourself into what you are doing.
Meraki is often used to describe creative or artistic expressions such as painting, singing, or composing music. Also, it can manifest in cooking, decorating a room, or nicely setting up a table.
You do not have to paint a gorgeous portrait of your partner or compose a stunning piece of music for them to express your love. Making a nice dinner is a perfect manifestation of Meraki!Greek word Meraki means to do something with love, creativity, and devotion when you wholeheartedly put yourself into what you are doing. Click To Tweet
8. Philautia: self-love
The Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that self-love or Philautia (φιλαυτία) is a prerequisite to loving others. Healthy self-love is beneficial to every aspect of life, including relationships, and individuals who love themselves are usually more capable of both giving and receiving all kinds of love.
Many destructive behaviors in a relationship can often be rooted in a lack of self-love. However, self-love can quickly turn into an unhealthy form when a person loves themselves more than anyone else. Unhealthy self-love can be expressed through an inflated ego and usually dependent on social status, abilities, or accomplishments rather than genuine virtues.
Healthy self-love is defined by self-esteem that is not dependent on status or competition with others. Instead, it is based more on forgiveness and acceptance of the self.
People with a healthy level of self-love are not arrogant and do not hold themselves superior to others, but are resilient and accepting of their limitations without feeling ashamed of them. These people are less likely to seek external validation through compulsive behaviors, and as a result, can devote themselves better to relationships.
9. Agape: unconditional love
Agape (ἀγάπη) is an unconditional love that is not dependent on any external factors. Acts of charity and altruism are often born out of Agape love. It seems fair to argue that a society without Agape would be unable to function, as we are dependent on one another as a species.
Agape is the least selfish form of love and does not require anything in return. However, it does also often result in immense benefits to the one practicing it – not just in terms of people reciprocating it with love or rewards, but benefits for the mental and emotional well-being of the practitioner. Practicing Agape love can often increase self-love, and higher levels of healthy self-love usually result in an increased ability to feel and show Agape – it is a cycle!
Greek is one of the richest languages in the world with an extensive vocabulary. However, love is often more complicated than any words can describe.
Although Greek philosophers attempted to classify different types of love, in reality, its forms and manifestations tend to blur and blend in various combinations. Thankfully, there are many ways that you can nurture and cultivate these, leading to happier and healthier connections and a more fulfilling life.
Knowing Greek words for love and recognizing different types of love may help you improve yourself and your relationship. And I am sure your partner will appreciate that cup of tea that you prepare with Meraki.