In 1909  Augustus Edward Hough Love introduced the values h and k which characterize the overall elastic response of the Earth to the tides. Later, in 1912, T. Shida of Japan added a third Love number, l, which was needed to obtain a complete overall description of the solid Earth's response to the tides.
The Love number h is defined as the ratio of the body tide to the height of the static equilibrium tide; also defined as the vertical (radial) displacement or variation of the planet's elastic properties. In terms of the tide generating potential , the displacement is where is latitude, is east longitude and is acceleration due to gravity. For a hypothetical solid Earth . For a liquid Earth, one would expect . However, the deformation of the sphere causes the potential field to change, and thereby deform the sphere even more. The theoretical maximum is . For the real Earth, lies between these values.
The Love number k is defined as the cubical dilation or the ratio of the additional potential (self-reactive force) produced by the deformation of the deforming potential. It can be represented as , where for a rigid body.
The Love number l represents the ratio of the horizontal (transverse) displacement of an element of mass of the planet's crust to that of the corresponding static ocean tide. In potential notation the transverse displacement is , where is the horizontal gradient operator. As with h and k, for a rigid body.
According to Cartwright, "An elastic solid spheroid will yield to an external tide potential of spherical harmonic degree 2 by a surface tide and the self-attraction of this tide will increase the external potential by ." The magnitudes of the Love numbers depend on the rigidity and mass distribution of the spheroid. Love numbers , , and can also be calculated for higher orders of spherical harmonics.
For elastic Earth the Love numbers lie in the range: , and .
For Earth's tides one can calculate the tilt factor as and the gravimetric factor as , where suffix two is assumed.
- Love Augustus Edward Hough. The yielding of the earth to disturbing forces 82 Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A 1909 http://doi.org/10.1098/rspa.1909.0008
- "Tidal Deformation of the Solid Earth: A Finite Difference Discretization", S.K.Poulsen; Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen; p 24;  Archived 2016-10-11 at the Wayback Machine
- Earth Tides; D.C.Agnew, University of California; 2007; 174
- Tides: A Scientific History; David E. Cartwright; Cambridge University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-521-62145-3; pp 140–141,224