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Love is any of a number of
emotions and experiences related to a sense of strong
attachment. The word
love can refer to a variety of different feelings, states,
and attitudes, ranging from generic
pleasure ("I loved that meal") to intense
interpersonal attraction ("I love my boyfriend"). This diversity
of uses and meanings, combined with the complexity of the feelings
involved, makes love unusually difficult to consistently define,
even compared to other emotional states.
As an abstract concept, love usually refers to a deep,
ineffable feeling of tenderly caring for another person. Even
this limited conception of love, however, encompasses a wealth of
different feelings, from the passionate desire and intimacy of
romantic love to the nonsexual emotional closeness of
to the profound
oneness or devotion of
Love in its various forms acts as a major facilitator of
interpersonal relationships and, owing to its central
psychological importance, is one of the most common themes in the
English word "love" can have a variety of related but distinct
meanings in different contexts. Often, other languages use multiple
words to express some of the different concepts that English relies
mainly on "love" to encapsulate; one example is the plurality of
Greek words for "love." Cultural differences in conceptualizing
love thus make it doubly difficult to establish any universal
Although the nature or
essence of love is a subject of frequent debate, different
aspects of the word can be clarified by determining what isn't
love. As a general expression of positive sentiment (a stronger form
of like), love is commonly contrasted with
hate (or neutral
as a less sexual and more emotionally intimate form of romantic
attachment, love is commonly contrasted with
and as an interpersonal relationship with romantic overtones, love
is commonly contrasted with
friendship, although other definitions of the word love
may be applied to close friendships in certain contexts.
When discussed in the abstract, love usually refers to
interpersonal love, an experience felt by a person for another
person. Love often involves caring for or identifying with a person
or thing, including oneself (cf.
In addition to cross-cultural differences in understanding love,
ideas about love have also changed greatly over time. Some
historians date modern conceptions of romantic love to courtly
Europe during or after the Middle Ages, although the prior existence
of romantic attachments is attested by ancient love poetry.
Because of the complex and abstract nature of love, discourse on
love is commonly reduced to a
thought-terminating cliché, and there are a number of common
proverbs regarding love, from
conquers all" to the
you need is love."
Bertrand Russell describes love as a condition of "absolute
value," as opposed to
relative value. Theologian
Thomas Jay Oord said that to love is to "act intentionally, in
sympathetic response to others, to promote overall well-being." Philosopher
Gottfried Leibniz said that love is "to be delighted by the
happiness of another."
A person can be said to love a country, principle, or goal if
they value it greatly and are deeply committed to it. Similarly,
compassionate outreach and volunteer workers' "love" of their cause
may sometimes be borne not of interpersonal love, but impersonal
love coupled with
altruism and strong political convictions. People can also
"love" material objects, animals, or activities if they invest
themselves in bonding or otherwise identifying with those things. If
sexual passion is also involved, this condition is called
Interpersonal love refers to love between human beings. It is a
more potent sentiment than a simple liking for another.
Unrequited love refers to those feelings of love that are not
reciprocated. Interpersonal love is most closely associated with
interpersonal relationships. Such love might exist between
family members, friends, and couples. There are also a number of
psychological disorders related to love, such as
religion have done the most speculation on the phenomenon of
love. In the last century, the science of
psychology has written a great deal on the subject. In recent
years, the sciences of
biology have added to the understanding of the nature and
function of love.
Biological models of sex tend to view love as a
mammalian drive, much like
Helen Fisher, a leading expert in the topic of love, divides the
experience of love into three partly overlapping stages: lust,
attraction, and attachment. Lust exposes people to others; romantic
attraction encourages people to focus their energy on mating; and
attachment involves tolerating the spouse (or indeed the child) long
enough to rear a child into infancy.
is the initial passionate sexual desire that promotes
and involves the increased release of chemicals such as
estrogen. These effects rarely last more than a few weeks or
Attraction is the more individualized and romantic desire for a
specific candidate for mating, which develops out of lust as
commitment to an individual mate forms. Recent studies in
neuroscience have indicated that as people fall in love, the
brain consistently releases a certain set of chemicals, including
serotonin, which act in a manner similar to
amphetamines, stimulating the brain's
pleasure center and leading to side effects such as increased
heart rate, loss of appetite and sleep, and an intense feeling
of excitement. Research has indicated that this stage generally
lasts from one and a half to three years.
Since the lust and attraction stages are both considered
temporary, a third stage is needed to account for long-term
Attachment is the
bonding that promotes relationships lasting for many years and
even decades. Attachment is generally based on commitments such as
children, or on mutual friendship based on things like shared
interests. It has been linked to higher levels of the chemicals
vasopressin to a greater degree than short-term relationships
The protein molecule known as the
nerve growth factor (NGF) has high levels when people first fall
in love, but these return to previous levels after one year.
Psychology depicts love as a cognitive and social phenomenon.
Robert Sternberg formulated a
triangular theory of love and argued that love has three
different components: intimacy, commitment, and passion. Intimacy is
a form in which two people share confidences and various details of
their personal lives, and is usually shown in friendships and
romantic love affairs. Commitment, on the other hand, is the
expectation that the relationship is permanent. The last and most
common form of love is sexual attraction and passion. Passionate
love is shown in infatuation as well as romantic love. All forms of
love are viewed as varying combinations of these three components.
Zick Rubin seeks to define love by
psychometrics. His work states that three factors constitute
love: attachment, caring, and intimacy.
Following developments in electrical theories such as
Coulomb's law, which showed that positive and negative charges
attract, analogs in human life were developed, such as "opposites
attract." Over the last century, research on the nature of human
mating has generally found this not to be true when it comes to
character and personality—people tend to like people similar to
themselves. However, in a few unusual and specific domains, such as
immune systems, it seems that humans prefer others who are unlike
themselves (e.g., with an orthogonal immune system), since this will
lead to a baby that has the best of both worlds.
In recent years, various
human bonding theories have been developed, described in terms
of attachments, ties, bonds, and affinities.
Some Western authorities disaggregate into two main components,
the altruistic and the narcissistic. This view is represented in the
Scott Peck, whose work in the field of applied psychology
explored the definitions of love and evil. Peck maintains that love
is a combination of the "concern for the spiritual growth of
another," and simple narcissism.
In combination, love is an activity, not simply a feeling.
Comparison of scientific models
Biological models of love tend to see it as a mammalian drive,
Psychology sees love as more of a social and cultural phenomenon.
There are probably elements of truth in both views. Certainly love
is influenced by
hormones (such as
neurotrophins (such as
pheromones, and how people think and behave in love is
influenced by their conceptions of love. The conventional view in
biology is that there are two major drives in love:
sexual attraction and
attachment. Attachment between adults is presumed to work on the
same principles that lead an infant to become attached to its
mother. The traditional psychological view sees love as being a
companionate love and passionate love. Passionate love is
intense longing, and is often accompanied by
physiological arousal (shortness of breath, rapid heart rate);
companionate love is affection and a feeling of intimacy not
accompanied by physiological arousal.
Studies have shown that brain scans of those infatuated by love
display a resemblance to those with a mental illness. Love creates
activity in the same area of the brain where hunger, thirst, and
drug cravings create activity. New love, therefore, could possibly
be more physical than emotional. Over time, this reaction to love
mellows, and different areas of the brain are activated, primarily
ones involving long-term commitments.
Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist, suggests that this
reaction to love is so similar to that of drugs because without
love, humanity would die out.
- Even after all this time
- The sun never says to the earth, "You owe
- Look what happens with a Love like that!
- —It lights the whole Sky. (Hafiz)
Sa'di are icons of the passion and love that the Persian culture
and language present. The Persian word for love is eshgh,
deriving from the Arabic ishq. In the Persian culture,
everything is encompassed by love and all is for love, starting from
loving friends and family, husbands and wives, and eventually
reaching the divine love that is the ultimate goal in life. Over
seven centuries ago, Sa'di wrote:
- The children of Adam are limbs of one body
- Having been created of one essence.
- When the calamity of time afflicts one limb
- The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
- If you have no sympathy for the troubles of
- You are not worthy to be called by the name
Chinese and other Sinic cultures
culture, several terms or root words are used for the concept of
- It was the first name of the
- Ai (?) is used as a verb (e.g., Wo ai ni, "I
love you") or as a noun, especially in aiqing (??),
"love" or "romance." In
mainland China since 1949,
airen (??, originally "lover," or more literally, "love
person") is the dominant word for "spouse" (with separate terms
for "wife" and "husband" originally being de-emphasized); the
word once had a negative connotation, which it retains among
- Lian (?) is not generally used alone, but instead as
part of such terms as "being in love" (???, tan lian'ai—also
containing ai), "lover" (??, lianren) or "homosexuality"
- Qing (?), commonly meaning "feeling" or "emotion,"
often indicates "love" in several terms. It is contained in the
word aiqing (??); qingren (??) is a term for
Confucianism, lian is a virtuous benevolent love. Lian
should be pursued by all human beings, and reflects a moral life.
The Chinese philosopher
developed the concept of ai (?) in reaction to Confucian
lian. Ai, in
is universal love towards all beings, not just towards friends or
family, without regard to reciprocation. Extravagance and offensive
war are inimical to ai. Although Mozi's thought was
influential, the Confucian lian is how most Chinese conceive
Ganqíng (??) is the "feeling" of a relationship, vaguely
empathy. A person will express love by building good ganqíng,
accomplished through helping or working for another and emotional
attachment toward another person or anything.
Yuanfen (??) is a connection of bound destinies. A
meaningful relationship is often conceived of as dependent on strong
yuanfen. It is very similar to serendipity. A similar
conceptualization in English is, "They were made for each other,"
"fate," or "destiny."
zaoliàn), literally "early love," is a contemporary term in
frequent use for romantic feelings or attachments among children or
adolescents. Zaolian describes both relationships among a
teenage boyfriend and girlfriend as well as the "crushes"
of early adolescence or childhood. The concept essentially indicates
a prevalent belief in contemporary Chinese culture, which is that,
due to the demands of their studies (especially true in the highly
competitive educational system of China), youth should not form
romantic attachments lest they jeopardize their chances for future
success. Reports have appeared in Chinese newspapers and other media
detailing the prevalence of the phenomenon and its perceived dangers
to students and the fears of parents.
Japanese Buddhism, ai (?) is passionate caring love, and
a fundamental desire. It can develop towards either selfishness or
selflessness and enlightenment.
(??), a Japanese word meaning "indulgent dependence," is part of the
child-rearing culture of Japan. Japanese mothers are expected to hug
and indulge their children, and children are expected to reward
their mothers by clinging and serving. Some
sociologists have suggested that Japanese social interactions in
later life are modeled on the mother-child amae.
several different senses in which the word "love" is used. For
example, Ancient Greek has the words philia, eros,
agape, storge, and xenia. However, with Greek (as
with many other languages), it has been historically difficult to
separate the meanings of these words totally. At the same time, the
Ancient Greek text of the
has examples of the
agapo having the same meaning as
Agape (???p? agápe)
means love in modern-day Greek. The term s'agapo means
I love you in Greek. The word agapo is the verb I
love. It generally refers to a "pure," ideal type of love,
rather than the physical attraction suggested by eros.
However, there are some examples of agape used to mean the
same as eros. It has also been translated as "love of the
Eros (???? éros)
is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. The Greek word
erota means in love.
refined his own definition. Although eros is initially felt for a
person, with contemplation it becomes an appreciation of the beauty
within that person, or even becomes appreciation of beauty itself.
Eros helps the soul recall knowledge of beauty and contributes to an
understanding of spiritual truth. Lovers and philosophers are all
inspired to seek truth by eros. Some translations list it as "love
of the body."
philía), a dispassionate virtuous love, was a concept developed
Aristotle. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and
community, and requires virtue, equality, and familiarity. Philia is
motivated by practical reasons; one or both of the parties benefit
from the relationship. It can also mean "love of the mind."
storge) is natural affection, like that felt by parents for
Xenia (?e??a xenía), hospitality, was an extremely
important practice in Ancient Greece. It was an almost ritualized
friendship formed between a host and his guest, who could previously
have been strangers. The host fed and provided quarters for the
guest, who was expected to repay only with gratitude. The importance
of this can be seen throughout
Greek mythology—in particular,
Turkish (Shaman & Islamic)
Turkish, the word "love" comes up with several meanings. A
person can love a god, a person, parents, or family. But that person
can "love" just one person from the opposite sex, which they call
the word "ask."
is a feeling for to love, as it still is in Turkish today.
The Turks used this word just for their loves in a romantic or
sexual sense. If a Turk says that he is in love (ask) with somebody,
it is not a love that a person can feel for his or her parents; it
is just for one person, and it indicates a huge infatuation. The
word is also common for
Turkic languages, such as
Azerbaijani (esq) and
Ancient Roman (Latin)
The Latin language has several different verbs corresponding to
the English word "love." Amare is the basic word for to
love, as it still is in Italian today. The Romans used it both
in an affectionate sense as well as in a romantic or sexual sense.
From this verb come amans—a lover, amator, "professional
lover," often with the accessory notion of lechery—and amica,
"girlfriend" in the English sense, often as well being applied
euphemistically to a prostitute. The corresponding noun is amor
(the significance of this term for the Romans is well illustrated in
the fact, that the name of the City,
Latin: Roma—can be viewed as an
anagram for amor, which was used as the secret name of
the City in wide circles in ancient times),
which is also used in the plural form to indicate love affairs or
sexual adventures. This same root also produces amicus—"friend"—and
amicitia, "friendship" (often based to mutual advantage, and
corresponding sometimes more closely to "indebtedness" or
"influence"). Cicero wrote a treatise called On Friendship (de
Amicitia), which discusses the notion at some length. Ovid wrote
a guide to dating called
Ars Amatoria (The Art of Love), which addresses,
in depth, everything from extramarital affairs to overprotective
Complicating the picture somewhat, Latin sometimes uses amare
where English would simply say to like. This notion, however,
is much more generally expressed in Latin by placere or
delectare, which are used more colloquially, the latter used
frequently in the love poetry of
Diligere often has the notion "to be affectionate for," "to
esteem," and rarely if ever is used for romantic love. This word
would be appropriate to describe the friendship of two men. The
corresponding noun diligentia, however, has the meaning of
"diligence" or "carefulness," and has little semantic overlap with
Observare is a synonym for diligere; despite the
cognate with English, this verb and its corresponding noun,
observantia, often denote "esteem" or "affection."
Caritas is used in Latin translations of the Christian Bible
to mean "charitable love"; this meaning, however, is not found in
Classical pagan Roman literature. As it arises from a conflation
with a Greek word, there is no corresponding verb.
is the most commonly used term for both interpersonal love and love
Judaism employs a wide definition of love, both among people and
between man and the Deity. Regarding the former, the
states, "Love your neighbor like yourself" (Leviticus
19:18). As for the latter, one is commanded to love God "with all
your heart, with all your soul and with all your might" (Deuteronomy
6:5), taken by the
Mishnah (a central text of the Jewish
oral law) to refer to good deeds, willingness to sacrifice one's
life rather than commit certain serious transgressions, willingness
to sacrifice all of one's possessions, and being grateful to the
Lord despite adversity (tractate Berachoth 9:5).
Rabbinic literature differs as to how this love can be
developed, e.g., by contemplating divine deeds or witnessing the
marvels of nature. As for love between marital partners, this is
deemed an essential ingredient to life: "See life with the wife you
9:9). The biblical book
Song of Solomon is considered a romantically phrased metaphor of
love between God and his people, but in its plain reading, reads
like a love song.
Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler is frequently quoted as defining love
from the Jewish point of view as "giving without expecting to take"
(from his Michtav me-Eliyahu, Vol. 1). Romantic love per se
has few echoes in Jewish literature, although the Medieval Rabbi
Judah Halevi wrote romantic poetry in Arabic in his younger
years (he appears to have regretted this later).
The Christian understanding is that love comes from God. The love
of man and woman—eros in Greek—and the unselfish love of
others (agape), are often contrasted as "ascending" and
"descending" love, respectively, but are ultimately the same thing.
There are several Greek words for "love" that are regularly
referred to in Christian circles.
is charitable, selfless, altruistic, and unconditional. It is
parental love, seen as creating goodness in the world; it is the
is seen to love humanity, and it is seen as the kind of love
that Christians aspire to have for one another.
Phileo: Also used in the New Testament, phileo is
a human response to something that is found to be delightful.
Also known as "brotherly love."
- Two other
words for love in the Greek language,
eros (sexual love) and
storge (child-to-parent love), were never used in the
Christians believe that to Love God with all your heart,
mind, and strength and Love your
neighbor as yourself are the two most important things in
life (the greatest commandment of the Jewish
Gospel of Mark chapter 12, verses 28–34).
Saint Augustine summarized this when he wrote "Love God, and
do as thou wilt."
The Apostle Paul glorified love as the most important virtue of
all. Describing love in the famous poem in
1 Corinthians, he wrote, "Love is patient, love is kind. It
does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude,
it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record
of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the
truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always
The Apostle John wrote, "For God so loved the world that he
gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not
perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the
world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not
believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the
name of God's one and only Son." (John
John also wrote, "Dear friends, let us love one another for
love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and
knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is
Saint Augustine says that one must be able to decipher the
difference between love and lust. Lust, according to Saint
Augustine, is an overindulgence, but to love and be loved is what he
has sought for his entire life. He even says, “I was in love with
love.” Finally, he does fall in love and is loved back, by God.
Saint Augustine says the only one who can love you truly and fully
is God, because love with a human only allows for flaws such as
“jealousy, suspicion, fear, anger, and contention.” According to
Saint Augustine, to love God is “to attain the peace which is
yours.” (Saint Augustine's Confessions)
theologians see God as the source of love, which is mirrored in
humans and their own loving relationships. Influential Christian
C.S. Lewis wrote a book called
The Four Loves.
Benedict XVI wrote his first
encyclical on "God
is love." He said that a human being, created in the image of
God, who is love, is able to practice love; to give himself to God
and others (agape)
and by receiving and experiencing God's love in contemplation
(eros). This life of love, according to him, is the life of the
saints such as
Teresa of Calcutta and the
Blessed Virgin Mary and is the direction Christians take when
they believe that God loves them.
Islam and Arab
In a sense, love does encompass the Islamic view of life as
universal brotherhood that applies to all who hold the faith. There
are no direct references stating that God is love, but amongst the
99 names of God (Allah),
there is the name Al-Wadud, or "the Loving One," which is
found in Surah 11:90 as well as Surah 85:14. It refers to God as
being "full of loving kindness." All who hold the faith have God's
love, but to what degree or effort he has pleased God depends on the
or divine love, is the emphasis of
Sufis believe that love is a projection of the essence of God to the
universe. God desires to recognize beauty, and as if one looks at a
mirror to see oneself, God "looks" at itself within the dynamics of
nature. Since everything is a reflection of God, the school of
Sufism practices to see the beauty inside the apparently ugly.
Sufism is often referred to as the religion of love. God in Sufism
is referred to in three main terms, which are the Lover, Loved, and
Beloved, with the last of these terms being often seen in Sufi
poetry. A common viewpoint of Sufism is that through love, humankind
can get back to its inherent purity and grace. The saints of Sufism
are infamous for being "drunk" due to their love of God; hence, the
constant reference to wine in Sufi poetry and music.
Kama is sensuous, sexual love. It is an obstacle on the path
enlightenment, since it is selfish.
is compassion and mercy, which reduces the suffering of others. It
is complementary to wisdom and is necessary for enlightenment.
are benevolent love. This love is unconditional and requires
considerable self-acceptance. This is quite different from ordinary
love, which is usually about attachment and sex and which rarely
occurs without self-interest. Instead, in Buddhism it refers to
detachment and unselfish interest in others' welfare.
Bodhisattva ideal in Mahayana Buddhism involves the complete
renunciation of oneself in order to take on the burden of a
suffering world. The strongest motivation one has in order to take
the path of the Bodhisattva is the idea of salvation within
unselfish, altruistic love for all sentient beings.
kama is pleasurable, sexual love, personified by the god
Kamadeva. For many Hindu schools, it is the third end (artha)
Kamadeva is often pictured holding a
sugar cane and an
flowers; he may ride upon a great parrot. He is usually
accompanied by his consort
and his companion
Vasanta, lord of the spring season. Stone images of Kaama and
Rati can be seen on the door of the Chenna Keshava temple at
Maara is another name for kama.
In contrast to kama,
or prem – refers to elevated love.
is compassion and mercy, which impels one to help reduce the
suffering of others. Bhakti is a
Sanskrit term, meaning "loving devotion to the supreme God." A
person who practices bhakti is called a bhakta.
writers, theologians, and philosophers have distinguished nine forms
bhakti, which can be found in the
Bhagavatha-Purana and works by
Tulsidas. The philosophical work
Narada Bhakti Sutras, written by an unknown author (presumed
Narada), distinguishes eleven forms of love.
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