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On the Diversity of Love

greek statues

If you search up the definition of love, you’ll likely find some variation of this: “A profoundly tender, passionate affection (for another person).”

But while that description may capture the gist of what love is, love—being so multifaceted—remains as one of the most challenging words to define. That’s why in Ancient Greek philosophy, there are seven separate definitions to categorize the different kinds of love we experience: philautia, storge, philia, ludus, eros, pragma, and agape.

Philautia (self-love)

Treating yourself to a delicious meal (and a drink or two) after a week of assignments and exams. Giving yourself some much-needed shut-eye during a long-awaited break. Patting yourself on the back for getting through your term of classes. These are all forms of expressing self-love—embracing your struggles while also appreciating your efforts, your achievements, and yourself as a person.

To accept all forms of love that life has to offer, philautia should take priority. After all, people often say that you must learn to love yourself before you can learn to love others, which is what makes philautia so important.

Storge (familial love)

You’re having a family dinner on Christmas Eve or a rare holiday, or maybe it’s the third family birthday you’ve celebrated in a week. Immersed in the lights, warmth, and comfort, surrounded by the ones you can bare your true vulnerabilities to (like admitting you’re procrastinating on an assignment to attend this event)—this feeling of safety and familiarity you experience with family is called storge.

Storge can appear in many forms, whether it’s the love you have for your parents, siblings, distant relatives, children, or pets. More generally, though, storge can represent the affection you share with all those familiar to you.

Philia (platonic love)

You’re at the Habitat Pub. Gathered with your friends over a round of drinks after making it through a difficult term, you vent to, cheer on, and empathize with one another. This mutual sense of affection and camaraderie among you and your friends is known as philia.

In philia, there isn’t any sense of physical attraction or sensual intimacy. It’s like storge in a way, built on the same foundations of trust, loyalty, and shared vulnerabilities.

Ludus (playful love)

Sometimes, the first glimpse of romantic attraction comes in innocent forms, like dropping your pencil and having it picked up by the cutest person in your class. But this spark can also be found elsewhere, like chatting with someone who catches your eye at the bar and going home with them for the night.

Ludus is used to describe these casual forms of attraction. In adolescence, it can be thought of as puppy love, the kind of innocent crush you have on a classmate. In adulthood, it can be thought of as the fleeting moments of passion and intimacy experienced with passing strangers, no strings attached.

Eros (romantic love)

Just before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, the sky erupts into flames of colour—the fireworks were mistimed. A familiar body leans against you, your hands link, then move apart, then wander––and the seconds tick down until you’re meeting for your first kiss of the new year. Maybe it’s still rather early in the relationship, but the passion, lust, and intensity you feel in this moment is undoubtedly eros.

Eros refers to the consuming feeling of pleasure and desire. It’s often used to describe the kind of passion reserved in the early stages of a relationship, where sexual intimacy is pushed to the forefront. As the name eros suggests, it’s the word erotic was derived from.

Pragma (enduring love)

Years into a committed relationship, you wake up to yet another morning next to the one you love, whom you also had a heated argument with last night. You both have your individual flaws, and through the time you’ve been together, there have been challenges and sacrifices as well as patience, honesty, and trust.

Unlike the initial honeymoon, intensely passionate stage of eros, pragma is the kind of love that’s built on years of devotion. Whereas eros can be thought of as planting a seed, pragma can be seen as the proliferation of the roots as they stretch and grow, and grow, and grow.

Agape (universal love)

On your commute to BCIT, you pass by the faces of sullen strangers, their stories and hardships unknown. Or maybe you overhear some classmates admitting how they’ve been struggling with their workloads, which have affected their mental health. Or during lunch break, you scroll on your phone and come across the news of a tragedy, affecting thousands of people you’ll never meet. All these events might gnaw at you, making you wish you could help make the world a better place.

Agape describes the affection we hold for everyone. It’s selfless and unconditional, and it can motivate us to sacrifice ourselves for the benefit of others.

It’s no question that love is a difficult word to define, and perhaps even more difficult to grasp as a concept; no single description could ever do it justice. Although Ancient Greek philosophy categorized it into several distinct forms, love remains subjective, delicate, and ever-changing––everyone experiences it differently, in varying levels of intensity. 

And yet, maybe that intricacy is what gives love its charm, and however we choose to define it is what matters most.


Acamea. “The Ancient Greeks Recognized 7 Different Forms of Love.” Medium. Medium, February 15, 2021.