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 historically difficult to separate the meanings of these words when used outside of their respective contexts. Nonetheless, the senses in which these words were generally used are as follows:
Agápe (ἀγάπηagápē) means love in a "spiritual" sense. In the term s'agapo (Σ'αγαπώ), which means "I love you" in Ancient Greek, it often refers to a general affection or deeper sense of "true unconditional love" rather than the attraction suggested by "eros." This love is selfless; it gives and expects nothing in return. Agape is used in the biblical passage known as the "love chapter," 1 Corinthians 13, and is described there and throughout the New Testament as brotherly love, affection, good will, love, and benevolence. Whether the love given is returned or not, the person continues to love (even without any self-benefit). Agape is also 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. It can also be described as the feeling of being content or holding one in high regard. 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 (ἔρωςérōs) is "physical" passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. Romantic, pure emotion without the balance of logic. "Love at first sight". The Modern Greek word "erotas" means "intimate love." 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. 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 (φιλίαphilía) is "mental" love. It means affectionate regard or friendship in both ancient and modern Greek. This type of love has give and take. 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, 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 (στοργήstorgē) means "affection" in ancient and 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. It is also known to express mere acceptance or putting up with situations, as in "loving" the tyrant.