8 Greek Words For Love That Will Make Your Heart Soar

Side view of plaster sculpture of woman from ancient Greece.

What is love? People have had a hard time answering that question for a lot longer than you might think. In Ancient Greece, love was a concept pondered over by some of history’s most famous philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle. Greek philosophers attempted to explain love rationally and often categorized the different kinds of love people could feel. Because we love them so much, we brought together some Greek words—and a Latin one, for good measure—for the different kinds of love you might find out there.


Original Greek: ἔρως (érōs)

Eros is physical love or sexual desire. Eros is the type of love that involves passion, lust, and/or romance.

Examples of eros would be the love felt between, well, lovers. Eros is the sensual love between people who are sexually attracted to each other. In the Bible, eros was synonymous with “marital love” because husbands and wives were supposed to be the only people having sex. Eros was also the name of a love god in Greek mythology—better known by his Roman name, Cupid—and was the guy responsible for shooting magic arrows at people to make them fall in love.

The word eros is still used in psychology today to refer to sexual desire or the libido. The words erotic and erogenous, which both have to do with sexual desire or arousal, are derived from eros.

Why do we express our love through valentines?


Original Greek: ϕιλία (philía)

Philia is affectionate love. Philia is the type of love that involves friendship.

Philia is the kind of love that strong friends feel toward each other. However, it doesn’t stop there. The Greek philosopher Plato thought that philia was an even greater love than eros and that the strongest loving relationships were ones where philia led to eros: a “friends become lovers” situation. Our concept of platonic love—love that isn’t based on physical attraction—comes from this Platonic philosophy.

The word philia is related to the word philosophy through the combining form philo-. Philia itself is the source of the combining forms -philia, -phile, and -phily, all three of which are used to indicate a figurative love or affinity for something.


Original Greek: ἀγάπη (agápē)

Agape is often defined as unconditional, sacrificial love. Agape is the kind of love that is felt by a person willing to do anything for another, including sacrificing themselves, without expecting anything in return. Philosophically, agape has also been defined as the selfless love that a person feels for strangers and humanity as a whole. Agape is the love that allows heroic people to sacrifice themselves to save strangers they have never met.

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Agape is a major term in the Christian Bible, which is why it is often defined as “Christian love.” In the New Testament, agape is the word used to describe the love that God has for humanity and the love humanity has for God. Agape was also the love that Jesus Christ felt for humanity, which explains why he was willing to sacrifice himself.


Original Greek: στοργή (storgé)

Storge is familial love. Storge is the natural love that family members have for one another.

Of all of the types of love, storge might be the easiest to understand. It is the type of love that parents feel toward their children and vice versa. Storge also describes the love that siblings feel towards each other, and the love felt by even more distant kin relationships, such as a grandparent for a grandchild or an uncle toward a niece.


Original Greek: μανία (manía)

Mania is obsessive love. Mania is the kind of “love” that a stalker feels toward their victim.

As a type of love, mania is not good, and the Greeks knew this as well as we do. Mania is excessive love that reaches the point of obsession or madness. Mania describes what a jilted lover feels when they are extremely jealous of a rival or the unhealthy obsession that can result from mental illness.

The Greek mania is the source of the English word mania and similar words like maniac and manic. It is also the source of the combining form -mania, which is often used in words that refer to obsessive behavior such as pyromania and egomania.


Original Latin: Bucking the trend, the word ludus comes from Latin rather than Greek. In Latin, lūdus means “game” or “play,” which fits with the type of love it refers to. One possible Greek equivalent is the word ερωτοτροπία, meaning “courtship.”

Ludus is playful, noncommittal love. Ludus covers things like flirting, seduction, and casual sex.

Ludus means “play” or “game” in Latin, and that pretty much explains what ludus is: love as a game. When it comes to ludus, a person is not looking for a committed relationship. People who are after ludus are just looking to have fun or view sex as a prize to be won. A “friends with benefits” situation would be an example of a relationship built on ludus: neither partner is interested in commitment. Of course, ludus may eventually result in eros—and hopefully not mania—if feelings of passion or romance emerge during the relationship.

The Latin lūdus is related to the playful words ludic and ludicrous.

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Original Greek: πράγμα (prágma)

Pragma is practical love. Pragma is love based on duty, obligation, or logic.

Pragma is the unsexy love that you might find in the political, arranged marriages throughout history. This businesslike love is seen in relationships where practicality takes precedence over sex and romance. For example, two people may be in a relationship because of financial reasons or because they have more to lose by breaking up than staying together.

Pragma may even involve a person tolerating or ignoring their partner’s infidelity, as was common in politically motivated royal marriages in much of world history. Pragma may not sound all that great to many, but it is possible for pragma to coexist alongside other types of love, such as ludus or even eros.

As you might have guessed, pragma is related to pragmatic, a word that is all about practicality.

What’s the difference between pragmatic and dogmatic?


Original Greek: ϕιλαυτία (philautía)

Philautia is self-love. No, not that kind. Philautia refers to how a person views themselves and how they feel about their own body and mind.

The modern equivalent of philautia would be something like self-esteem (good) or hubris (bad). People with high self-esteem, pride in themselves, or a positive body image practice a healthy version of philautia. Of course, philautia has a dark side, too. Egomaniacal narcissists who think they are better than everybody else are also an example of philautia, but not in a healthy way. The duality of philautia just goes to show that love, even self-love, can often get pretty complicated.

Take the quiz

Now that you have learned the language of love that goes beyond “sweet nothings” and heart-shaped candies, head over to our quiz on these words for a hearty challenge.

Learn more about 9 words that came from Greek and Roman mythology.

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