From a mother’s nurturing love for her child to the companionship between best friends to the enduring bond of a longtime couple, love is a complex emotion that can be experienced and expressed in innumerable ways. While there’s no universally agreed-upon classification of love “types,” it’s a topic that philosophers, poets, and scholars have contemplated for more than two millennia.
Throughout history, various frameworks and theories have been proposed to distinguish between the different manifestations of love and their distinctive attributes. The ancient Greeks notably recognized several varieties of love, many of which you can read about below. Those categories have persisted for hundreds of years, although they’ve been adapted and reinterpreted to align with evolving philosophies about relationships.
As William Shakespeare’s star-crossed Juliet said, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” And so it is with love. Whatever we call it or whatever words we use to describe it, love is love. Here are some illuminating quotes to remind us that love, in all its myriad forms, remains a timeless and essential emotion that unites us all.
Eros (romantic love)
Named for the Greek god of love, eros represents the most passionate form of love. The words “erotic” and “erogenous” are derived from eros, so as you might guess, this kind of love also extends to physical intimacy.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. / I love thee to the depth and breadth and height / My soul can reach.Elizabeth Barrett Browning
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, / in secret, between the shadow and the soul.Pablo Neruda
Storge (familial love)
Storge is the affection felt between family members, particularly by parents for their children and vice versa. This type of familiar love occurs naturally and spontaneously.
I sustain myself with the love of family.Maya Angelou
Parents were the only ones obligated to love you; from the rest of the world you had to earn it.Ann Brashares
Philia (brotherly love)
Philia is the affectionate love experienced between friends. Plato philosophized that physical attraction wasn’t a necessary element for experiencing love, which is why platonic relationships are named for him. Though they have often gotten short shrift compared to romantic love, friendships are essential to our well-being.
If we would build on a sure foundation in friendship, we must love friends for their sake rather than for our own.Charlotte Brontë
There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.Thomas Aquinas
Agape (unconditional love)
Agape is the type of selfless, altruistic love that inspires compassion and generosity. In Christian scripture, it is the highest form of love — transcendent and spiritual, marked by charity toward others and a love for the divine.
Unconditional love is an illogical notion, but such a great and powerful one.A.J. Jacobs
The ultimate lesson is learning how to love and be loved unconditionally.Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Philautia is the love of self, the type of love related to our self-esteem and self-confidence, which can ultimately lead to healthier relationships with others. The ancient Greeks recognized that philautia can also have a darker side when it manifests as narcissism.
How you love yourself is / how you teach others / to love you.Rupi Kaur
Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.Lucille Ball
Pragma (enduring love)
As the word suggests, pragma is a pragmatic, or practical, love based on a sense of duty, commitment, and shared goals. This is the type of love found in marriages and life partnerships that have matured and developed over a long period of time.
Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction.Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life — to strengthen each other in all labour, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?George Eliot
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