Greek words for love
The Greek language distinguishes at least four different ways as to how the word love is used. Ancient Greek has four distinct words for love: agápe, éros, philía, and storgē. However, as with other languages, it has been difficult to distinguish the separate meanings of these words without carefully considering the context in which the words are used. Nonetheless, the senses in which these words were generally used are as follows:
- Agápe (ἀγάπη agápē) means "love: esp. charity; the love of God for man and of man for a good God." Agape is used in ancient texts to denote feelings for one's children and the feelings for a spouse, and it was also used to refer to a love feast. Agape is used by Christians to express the unconditional love of God for his children. This type of love was further explained by Thomas Aquinas as "to will the good of another."
- Éros (ἔρως érōs) means "love, mostly of the sexual passion." The Modern Greek word "erotas" means "intimate love". Plato refined his own definition: Although eros is initially felt for a person, with contemplation it becomes an appreciation of the beauty within that person, or even becomes appreciation of beauty itself. Plato does not talk of physical attraction as a necessary part of love, hence the use of the word platonic to mean, "without physical attraction". In the Symposium, the most famous ancient work on the subject, Plato has Socrates argue that eros helps the soul recall knowledge of beauty, and contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth, the ideal "Form" of youthful beauty that leads us humans to feel erotic desire – thus suggesting that even that sensually based love aspires to the non-corporeal, spiritual plane of existence; that is, finding its truth, just like finding any truth, leads to transcendence. Lovers and philosophers are all inspired to seek truth through the means of eros.
- Philia (φιλία philía) means "affectionate regard, friendship", usually "between equals". It is a dispassionate virtuous love, a concept developed by Aristotle. In his best-known work on ethics, Nicomachean Ethics, philia is expressed variously as loyalty to friends (specifically, "brotherly love"), family, and community, and requires virtue, equality, and familiarity. Furthermore, in the same text philos denotes a general type of love, used for love between family, between friends, a desire or enjoyment of an activity, as well as between lovers.
- Storge (στοργή storgē) means "love, affection" and "especially of parents and children". It is the common or natural empathy, like that felt by parents for offspring. Rarely used in ancient works, and then almost exclusively as a descriptor of relationships within the family. It is also known to express mere acceptance or putting up with situations, as in "loving" the tyrant. This is also used when referencing the love for one's country or a favorite sports team.
- Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert (eds.). "ἀγάπη". A Greek-English Lexicon. Perseus. Tufts University.
- Liddell, H. G.; Scott, Robert (October 2010). An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon: Founded upon the seventh edition of Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon. Benediction Classics. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-84902-626-0.
- "Greek Lexicon". GreekBible.com. The Online Greek Bible. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- Romans 5:5, 5:8
- "St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II, 26, 4, corp. art". Newadvent.org. Retrieved 2010-10-30.
- ἔρως, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- translated from the Greek by Walter Hamilton, Plato (1973). The Symposium (Repr. ed.). Harmondsworth, Eng.: Penguin. ISBN 9780140440249.
- φιλία, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- "Philosophy of Love (Philia)". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- στοργή, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- Strong B, Yarber WL, Sayad BW, Devault C (2008). Human sexuality: diversity in contemporary America (6th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 228. ISBN 978-0-07-312911-2.