Love is a special and complicated emotion which is quite difficult to understand. Although most people believe that love revolves around the heart, it actually occurs in the brain. Artists, poets and painters all epitomize the heart as the love symbol, but it’s the brain that generates chemical signals to make people understand love. There are different forms and styles of expressing love.

All of us hold feelings for others, but these feelings differ according to the people and the circumstance. In the English language there is only one word to describe all of them: LOVE.

It wasn’t always so. The Ancient Greeks had around 30 words to describe Love in all its shades and complexities. We have chosen eight of the most powerful of these words to guide us towards a greater understanding of the emotion which makes the world go round.

These are:

Agape – the love of humanity

his is an unconditional love that sees beyond the outer surface and accepts the recipient for whom he/she is, regardless of their flaws, shortcomings or faults. It’s the type of love that everyone strives to have for their fellow human beings. Although you may not like someone, you decide to love them just as a human being. This kind of love is all about sacrifice as well as giving and expecting nothing in return. The translation of the word agape is love in the verb – form: it is the love demonstrated by your behavior towards another person. It is a committed and chosen love.

Storge – family love

It is a kind of family and friendship love. This is the love that parents naturally feel for their children; the love that member of the family have for each other; or the love that friends feel for each other. In some cases, this friendship love may turn into a romantic relationship, and the couple in such a relationship becomes best friends. Storge love is unconditional, accepts flaws or faults and ultimately drives you to forgive. It’s committed, sacrificial and makes you feel secure, comfortable and safe.
Pragma – love which endures
The love between a married couple which develops over a long period of time. The love which endures in sickness and in health. The love which makes a friend care for their former school friend who has become vulnerable in later life.

Philautia – self-respect
The love we give to ourselves. This is not vanity, like narcissism, but our joy in being true to our own values. The strength to care for ourselves so that we can in turn care for others.

Philia – shared experience
The love we feel for people we strive with to achieve a shared goal – our co-workers, the players in a football or netball team, the soldiers in an army. 

Ludus – flirting, playful affection
The feelings we have when we test out what it might be like to be in love with someone. The fluttering heart and feelings of euphoria; the slightly dangerous sensation.

Eros – romantic and erotic love
Eros is a passionate and intense love that arouses romantic feelings; it is the kind that often triggers “high” feelings in a new relationship and makes you say, “I love him/her”. It is simply an emotional and sexual love. Although this romantic love is important in the beginning of a new relationship, it may not last unless it moves a notch higher because it focuses more on self instead of the other person. If the person “in love” does not feel good about their relationship anymore, they will stop loving their partner. It can turn into other kinds of love – like pragma – but it starts as romance and attraction.

Phileo – chosen love


The phileo love refers to an affectionate, warm and tender platonic love. It makes you desire friendship with someone. It’s the kind of love which livens up the Agape love. Although you may have an agape love for your enemies, you may not have a phileo love for the same people. The translation of the word phileo is love in the noun – form: it is how you feel about someone. It is a committed and chosen love.