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Greek words for love

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There are a number of different Greek words for love, as the Greek language distinguishes how the word is used. Ancient Greek has three distinct words for love: eros, philia, and agape. However, as with other languages, it has been historically difficult to separate the meanings of these words. Nonetheless, the senses in which these words were generally used are given below.

  • Eros (ἔρως érōs) is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. The Modern Greek word "erotas" means "(romantic) love". However, Eros does not have to be sexual in nature. Eros can be interperated as a love for someone who you love more than the Philia love of friendship. It can also apply to dating relationships as well as marriage. 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. It should be noted 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". Plato also said Eros helps the soul recall knowledge of beauty, and contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth. Lovers and philosophers are all inspired to seek truth by eros. The most famous ancient work on the subject of eros is Plato's Symposium, which is a discussion among the students of Socrates on the nature of eros.
  • Philia (φιλία philía), means friendship in modern Greek, a dispassionate virtuous love, was a concept developed by Aristotle. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. In ancient texts, philia denoted a general type of love, used for love between family, between friends, a desire or enjoyment of an activity, as well as between lovers.
  • Agapē (ἀγάπη agápē) means "love" in modern day Greek. The term s'agapo means "I love you" in Greek. The word "agapo" is the verb "I love". In Ancient Greek it often refers to a general affection or concern, rather than the physical attraction suggested by "eros"; agape is used in ancient texts to denote feelings for a good meal, one's children, and the feelings for a spouse. The verb appears in the New Testament describing, amongst other things, the relationship between Jesus and the beloved disciple. Many Christian scholars have consequently argued that the verb's use in the New Testament is simply to describe God's love for humanity (compare with Spinoza's amor intellectualis Dei, the intellectual love of God). In the end, "agape" is differentiated from "eros" above. In biblical literature, its meaning and usage is illustrated by self-sacrificing, giving love to all--both friend and enemy. The word "agape" is not always used in the New Testament in a positive sense. II Timothy 4:10 uses the word in a negative sense. The Apostle Paul writes,"For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world...." The word "loved" here is a form of the root word "agape". Thus the word "agape" is not always used of a divine love or the love of God. Generally, in the New Testament it refers to a total commitment or self-sacrificial love for the object loved. The word seems to contain more of a mental or intellectual element than the other Greek words for love. It is a rational love that is not based on total self-interest. By this a Christian is required to love (agape) someone who is not necessarily lovely or loveable. The Christian by God's grace and mercy is required to "love" someone that he may not necessarily like or love in the sense of having warm fuzzy emotional feelings toward. It is a love that acts in the best interest of the other person. The classic biblical text on this self-sacrificial love is the well-known biblical verse, John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son...." A Christian is required to love his enemies ("...Love your enemies..." Matthew 5:44). Thus, the Christian is required always to do good and have the best interest of his enemies in view when he acts.
  • Storge (στοργή storgē) means affection in modern Greek; it is natural affection, like that felt by parents for offspring. Rarely used in ancient works, and then almost exclusively as a descriptor of relationships within the family.

See alsoEdit


da:Græske ord for kærlighed
fr:Mots grecs pour dire amour
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