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There are (at least) 14 different kinds of love described in the world’s languages

Mass wedding Moonie church Korea
Family members take pictures of a pair earlier than a mass marriage ceremony ceremony in North Korea.
Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

No emotion, absolutely, is as cherished and wanted as love. But on events reminiscent of Valentine’s day, we are able to usually be misled into considering that it consists solely within the swooning, star-crossed romance of falling deeply “in love”. However on reflection, love is way extra complicated. Certainly, arguably no phrase covers a wider vary of emotions and experiences than love.

So how can we ever outline what love actually is? In my new research, published in the Journal for the Theory of Social Analysis, I’ve made a begin by looking the world’s languages for phrases relating to like that do not exist in English.

Most of us use the phrase love pretty liberally. I take advantage of it for the deep passion, care and respect I’ve for my spouse. However I can even name upon it to explain the unshakeable bonds of kinship and historical past I share with my household, and the connections and allegiances I’ve with shut buddies. I will even use it in relation to our cheeky canine Daisy, the music of Tom Waits, Sunday morning lie ins and plenty of different issues.

Clearly, no matter love is, it spans an excessive amount of emotional and experiential territory. For sure, I am not the primary to note this. For example, within the 1970s, the psychologist John Lee recognized six different “styles” of affection. He did so by learning different languages, particularly the classical lexicons of Greek and Latin, which boast a wealth of exact phrases describing particular varieties of affection.

Lee recognized three main types of love. “Eros” denotes ardour and need, “ludus” refers to flirtatious, playful affection, and “storgē” describes familial or companionate bonds of care. He then paired these main varieties to supply three secondary varieties: ludus plus storgē creates “pragma”, a rational, smart long-term lodging. Nonetheless, eros mixed with ludus generates “mania”, signifying possessive, dependent, or troubled intimacies, whereas eros and storgē kind the charitable, selfless compassion of “agápē”.

This evaluation looks like a superb begin, however an incomplete one. In spite of everything, it largely simply issues romantic partnerships, and does not account for lots of the emotions that fall inside the ambit of affection.

Untranslatable phrases

I made a decision to increase on this work as a part of a broader lexicographic project to gather so-called “untranslatable” phrases that pertain to well-being, a work-in-progress which at the moment options practically 1,000 words. Such phrases can reveal phenomena which have been neglected or under-appreciated in a single’s personal tradition, as I discover in two forthcoming books (a general interest exploration of key words, and an academic analysis of the lexicography). Within the case of affection, then, untranslatable phrases assist us perceive the bountiful number of feelings and bonds which are in English subsumed inside the one phrase “love”.

My enquiry yielded a whole bunch of phrases from round 50 languages (which after all leaves many languages nonetheless to be explored). I analysed these thematically, grouping the phrases into 14 distinct “flavours” of affection. Some languages had been notably prolific of their lexical dexterity, particularly Greek, which contributed probably the most phrases by far.

As such, in a spirit of poetic consistency, I gave every flavour a related Greek label. I name these “flavours” to keep away from implying that relationships will be solely pigeonholed as constituting only one kind. A romantic partnership, say, may mix a number of flavours collectively, producing a novel “style” which could subtly change over time.

14 flavours

So, what are these flavours? The primary three don’t concern individuals in any respect. They confer with individuals’s fondness and keenness for sure actions (meraki), locations (chōros) and objects (eros). Observe that this utilization of eros displays its deployment in classical Greece, the place it was usually used within the context of aesthetic appreciation quite than romance. Certainly, like love itself, all these phrases can be utilized in different and altering methods.

Every of those flavours is a “compound” of associated phrases from varied languages. For example, the connection to put denoted by chōros is mirrored in ideas reminiscent of “turangawaewae”, “cynefin” and “querencia” – from Māori, Welsh and Spanish respectively – which all pertain in a roundabout way to the sentiment of getting a “place to face” on this Earth, someplace safe that we are able to name dwelling.

A couple kissing
A pair kissing.
Laura Santana/Unsplash

With regards to love between individuals, the primary three are the non-romantic types of care, affection and loyalty we lengthen in direction of household (storgē), buddies (philia), and ourselves (philautia). Then, embracing romance, Lee’s notions of pragma, mania, and ludus are joined by the passionate need of “epithymia”, and the star-crossed future of “anánkē”.

Once more, these labels all carry collectively associated phrases from numerous languages. For example, the spirit of anánkē is present in phrases just like the Japanese “koi no yokan”, which roughly means “premonition of affection”, capturing the sensation on first assembly somebody that falling in love shall be inevitable. And likewise the Chinese language time period “yuán fèn” will be interpreted as a binding pressure of irresistible future.

Lastly, there are three types of selfless, “transcendent” love, during which one’s personal wants and issues are comparatively diminished. These are the compassion of agápē, ephemeral sparks of “participatory consciousness”, reminiscent of after we are emotionally swept up inside a gaggle dynamic (koinonia), and the type of reverential devotion that non secular believers may maintain in direction of a deity (sebomai).

Clearly, there any some ways we are able to love and be beloved. You and your life companion may nicely expertise emotions of epithymia, pragma, or anánkē, however might also – or alternatively, as a substitute – be blessed with moments of storgē, agápē and koinonia. Likewise, a deep friendship might equally be suffused with some combination of flavours reminiscent of pragma, storgē, agápē and anánkē, during which we really feel a profound and fated bond of lifelong connection.

Furthermore, this checklist is merely preliminary, with different flavours probably but to be acknowledged. So hopefully we will be reassured that even when we’re not romantically head-over-heels “in love” – in that archetypal Hollywood vogue – our lives should still be graced by love in some treasured and uplifting means.


Tim Lomas is a Lecturer in Constructive Psychology on the University of East London.


This text was initially printed on The Conversation. Learn the original article.


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