Archive for the 'Language' Category

(Linguistic) Love Greek-Style

As any good protestant parishioner (or at least one who has had to endure the oft overwrought “God’s Agape Love” sermon*) can tell you – in the Greek language, there are several different words for love – Eros, Philia, Agape, and Storgē – each expressing its own different facet and expression of love.

So while I was bashing on marriage a few weeks ago in this post and lamenting that the “Eros” version too often only happens when one returns after an extended absence, I thought it might be useful to examine all types of marital love.  And just as the ancient and modern Greeks have 3 or 4 different words for love, expectedly there are also these types and manifestations of love in marriage: 

Eros – Erotic/Romatic/Euphoric Love (Timespan – 1 night to 1 year) – I think we all know what kind of love this is – it is what they show you on TV and in the movies (even the non-pornographic ones!).  It is the chemically addictive desire to mate that our selfish DNA has endowed us with.  This is like when you begin to really like a song and learn its words and you just want to hear it again and again – thinking it will be that fresh and interesting always.

Philia – Philial/the Love of Friendship (1 to 3 years) – This is the most broad and ambiguous of the greek loves.  It can mean anything from the love of friendship, goodness, or even pleasure.  It can even mean being “lovable.”  And this is my favorite definition, for at this stage we are still at least trying to be lovable.  We know ourselves and we know our mates for all our strengths and weaknesses.  This is like when you have learned that favorite song by heart, but you still like it (you just may not want to hear it all the time or necessarily over again and again).

Agape – Unconditional and Long Term (3 to 10 years) – This is the start of the love of family, of the love of the more permanent love artifacts (art, children, connectedness, etc.), and of the love of something more than yourself.  This is like when you continually rediscover that song you liked long ago.

Storgē – Love of Family (10 years to ?) – This is the willingness to sacrifice the Eros, Philia, and Agape for the familiarity, safety, security, and commitment of a long term relationship with your family.  It is when you finally understand-through hard experience-the vows of “sickness and health, richer or poorer,” and so on.  It is the final sweet and pleasant mix of erotic, philial, and agape love with family.  And, with luck, it is the end state of all happy and functional relationships.  So “play it again Sam.”

* I personally believe that modern Christians may be imbuing this word (Agape) with meanings it never originally had to have some sermon-writing material.
** I lived in Greece for a few years and would hear these words all of the time, and their meaning and connotation seemed almost nothing like when our preacher would use them (but in his defense, he may have been using the ancient meanings).  Some examples:
“Philemo! My Friend! You want to buy a rug!”
Agapemo! (My Love!)” – was a favorite when I used to hear the Greek Ya-Ya’s use it to call their grandkids in for supper (and they probably weren’t talking about God-like love, although it is possible).


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