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Greek words for love

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Ancient Greek philosophy differentiates main conceptual forms and distinct words for the Modern English word love: agápē, érōs, philía, philautía, storgē, and xenía.

List of concepts


Though there are more Greek words for love, variants and possibly subcategories, a general summary considering these Ancient Greek concepts is:

  • Agápe (ἀγάπη, agápē[1]) means "love: esp. unconditional love, charity; the love of God for person and of person for God".[2] Agape is used in ancient texts to denote unconditional love, and it was also used to refer to a love feast.[3] Agape is used by Christians to express the unconditional love of God for His children.[4][non-primary source needed] This type of love was further explained by Thomas Aquinas as "to will the good of another".[5]
  • Éros (ἔρως, érōs) means "love, mostly of the sexual passion".[6] 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 and may ultimately transcend particulars to become an appreciation of beauty itself, hence the concept of platonic love to mean "without physical attraction". In Plato's Symposium, Socrates argues that eros helps the soul recall its inherent knowledge of ideal beauty and spiritual truth. Thus, the ideal form of youthful beauty arouses erotic desire, but also points toward higher spiritual ideals.[7]
  • Philia (φιλία, philía) means "affectionate regard, friendship", usually "between equals".[8] It is a dispassionate virtuous love.[9] In Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, philia is expressed variously as loyalty to friends ("brotherly love"), family, and community; it requires virtue, equality, and familiarity.
  • Storge (στοργή, storgē) means "love, affection" and "especially of parents and children".[10] It is the common or natural empathy, like that felt by parents for offspring.[11] It is rarely used in ancient works, almost exclusively to describe family relationships. It may also express mere acceptance or tolerance, as in "loving" the tyrant. It may also describe love of country or enthusiasm for a favorite sports team.
  • Philautia (φιλαυτία, philautía) means "self-love". To love oneself or "regard for one's own happiness or advantage"[12][full citation needed] has been conceptualized both as a basic human necessity[13] and as a moral flaw, akin to vanity and selfishness,[14] synonymous with amour-propre or egotism. The Greeks further divided this love into positive and negative: one, the unhealthy version, is the self-obsessed love, and the other is the concept of self-compassion. Aristotle also considers philautia to be the root of a general kind of love for family, friends, the enjoyment of an activity, as well as that between lovers.
  • Xenia (ξενία, xenía) is an ancient Greek concept of hospitality, "guest-friendship", or "ritualized friendship". It was a social institution requiring generosity, gift exchange, and reciprocity.[15] Hospitality towards foreigners and traveling Hellenes was understood as a moral obligation under the patronage of Zeus Xenios and Athene Xenia. Many understand the Odyssey as a story principally concerned with the concept. For instance, the failure of the Suitors of Penelope to appropriately welcome disguised Odysseus into his own home can be seen as justification for their subsequent demise.[16]

See also



  1. ^ Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert (eds.). "ἀγάπη". A Greek-English Lexicon. Perseus. Tufts University.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Greek Lexicon". GreekBible.com. The Online Greek Bible. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
  4. ^ Romans 5:5, 5:8
  5. ^ "St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II, 26, 4, corp. art". Newadvent.org. Retrieved 2010-10-30.
  6. ^ ἔρως, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  7. ^ Plato (1973). The Symposium. Translated by Walter Hamilton (Repr. ed.). Harmondsworth, Eng.: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-044024-9.
  8. ^ φιλία, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus.
  9. ^ Alexander Moseley. "Philosophy of Love (Philia)". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
  10. ^ στοργή, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus.
  11. ^ Strong B.; Yarber W. L.; Sayad B. W.; Devault C. (2008). Human sexuality: diversity in contemporary America (6th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 228. ISBN 978-0-07-312911-2.
  12. ^ Merriam-Webster dictionary.[verification needed].
  13. ^ See Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
  14. ^ B. Kirkpatrick ed., Roget's Thesaurus (1998) p. 592, 639.
  15. ^ The Greek world. Anton Powell. London: Routledge. 1995. ISBN 0-203-04216-6. OCLC 52295939.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  16. ^ Wilson, Emily (2020). The Odyssey. W.W. Norton. pp. 23–29. ISBN 978-0-393-54340-7.