13 Ancient Terms for Love, Lust, Attraction & Affection

If you read books like Erich Fromm's The Art of Loving, and Neal Walch's Conversations with God, and Miguel Ruiz's The Mastery of Love, you'll find mixed definitions of love. All of the definitions are right, but we're using one word to mean too many things. The kind of love that saved Harry Potter from Voldamortz's spell, for example, is not the same kind of love you experience when we talk about "falling in love."
It is important to note that most of these terms have a positive connotation and a negative connotation, which is determined by context. Most of these terms are not inherently good or bad. While agape clearly has a positive connotation, epithumia has no positive or negative connotation.

Ancient Terms for Love, Lust, Attraction & Affection

Philautia (feel-ow-tee-ah) — Self love, confidence, healthy pride.
Instead of saying, "She has an abundance of self-love," you can say, "She has an abundance of philautia," or "She is philautian."
Narcissism (nar-siz-siz-m) — Self-obsession, greed, vanity (the negative flipside of philautia).
Instead of saying, "They've become entirely self-obsessed," you can say, "They've become narcissistic."
Agape (aw-gaw-pay) — Unconditional love, godly love, spiritual love (similar to caritas).
Instead of saying, "He is working toward unconditional love," you can say, "He is improving his capacity for agape."
Caritas (kari-tas) — Charitable, giving love; love of all mankind (similar to agape).
Instead of saying, "I was feeling charitable," you can say, "She was feeling caritas."
Philia (feel-ee-ah) — Fondness for friends and family, feeling affectionate.
Instead of saying, "I love my brother," you can say, "My bother and I share deep philia."
Platonic (pl-ah-ton-ik) — Strong fondness, usually between friends, without any epithumia.
Instead of saying, "We enjoyed a friendly date," you can say, "We enjoyed a platonic date."
Mania (mane-ee-ah) — In a negative sense: Possessive, stalking, jealous "love"; in a more positive sense: Intense need and desire for the presense/praise/sex/touch of a specific person
Instead of saying, "She became crazily interested when she saw him," you can say, "She fell right into mania when she saw him."
Pragma (prag-ma) — Chosen affectionate love for pratical purposes (the sort of love that develops in an arranged marriage between two people who don't romantically "click")
Instead of saying, "They've learned to love each other," you can say, "They've developed pragma."
Storge (store-gaye) — Slow-building, committed friendship where sex may or may not be part of the relationship.
Instead of saying, "Their friendship and commitment deepened over time," you can say, "They found storge together."
Ludos (loo-dos) — Uncommitted romance which may be conquest-style (game playing, uncommitted, flirty, having fun in the moment).
Instead of saying, "He was a player," you can say, "He tended toward ludos."
Eros (Air-oh-s) — Passionate attraction, "crazy love"; not necessarily physical, yet usually including physical attraction.
Instead of saying, "She was passionately interested," you can say, "She erosed."
Epithumia (ep-ee-thoo-mee-ah) — lustful desire, which may be benevolent/good or irrational/harmful.
Instead of saying, "I went through a phase of lusting after every girl I saw," you can say, "I went through a phase of epithumia."
Limerence (lim-er-ence) — involuntary, obsessive attraction; a strong crush.
Instead of saying, "He had an obsessive crush," you can say, "He was limerent."
If you enjoyed this post you'll enjoy my New Age Dictionary. This special dictionary contains words essential for transforming our culture into one that supports healthy habits, lifestyle choices and emotionally supportive environments. Heinlein's book, Stranger in a Strange Land, presents the concept that you can't bring about higher capacities in humans without higher comprehension, and to create this comprehension, we need to start with our language. We think in our language, which makes the words we use – and how we understand them – essential to creating lasting, beneficial change.

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