Letter #15: A Belated Look into Love-ly Words
Does this even count as a pun at this point?
I’m mighty late to the Valentine’s Day themed content, but it’s still le Love Month for a few more days, so this is fine. (Now I need to redraw the “This is fine” meme, but with less fire and more candy.) As someone who absolutely adores the red and pink color palette of Februarian sweets, cards, and outfits, I can’t pass up this month without saying something.
I believe I just created this word; Februarian isn’t yet a word and I want it to be, but if you use a word enough, it does actually become a word. That’s how every word joined the dictionary. Similarly, it’s how obsolete words leave dictionaries; people stop using them, so they fall out of the vernacular.
I’ve nerded out enough here, so let’s get into some love-related words and mythology! First, we’ll dig very slightly into types of love and history, then some neat words and meanings.
7 Types of Love (According to the Greeks)
I’ve always heard the terms eros and agape thrown around far more than any of the other terms on the following list. However, according to the ancient Greeks, you need a combination of all these loves to be truly “in love.”
1.) Agape: unconditional, universal, altruistic love
This love is most often associated with nature or God.
2.) Eros: powerful, passionate, physical love most similar to our modern view of “romantic” love.
This is the kind of love most associated with the idea of “falling” in love, which references the myth of Eros (also Cupid in Roman mythology) striking one with his arrow. This arrow would cause the victim to fall, as in battle, to a kind of madness of love. Eros, or Cupid, is often depicted as being blindfolded to show that “love is blind.”
However, in the original myth, Eros is not blind or blindfolded; Eros’ beloved wife, Psyche, must agree to marry him if she swears never to look upon him. Once she looks upon him, believing him to be hiding something, she suffers greatly for not having faith in him. It’s a pretty tragic tale, which actually fits with a lot of stories involving Eros or his mother, Aphrodite.
The whole question of parentage here is also murky. Eros was originally described as having the titan Chaos as his father, then later Aphrodite/Venus and varying gods as his parents. Myths are stories passed down through history, and those stories shift slightly as the trickle down.
3.) Philia: friendship!
Fun fact: there are a lot of names that mean something related to love (philos means “friend, lover”)
We get names like Phil (friend, beloved, lover), Cara (beloved), Connor (dog lover, wolf lover), Drummond (lover), Annabel/Annabelle (lovable), Amy (beloved), Astrid (love’s desire), Freya (beloved), Imogen (born of love), Minna/Minnie (beloved), Morna (beloved), Philomena (little lover), and many more.
I do a lot of research into names when naming my characters for creative projects, so I just have lists of cool names and meanings. (I may end up making lists of cool themed character names. Or baby names. Or pet names. People tend to be looking for any of those and I just love sharing neat stuff!)
4.) Storge: family love (a subset of philia)
(pronounced like stor-JAY; autocorrect desperately tried to change this to “storage”)
According to Better Help, “Storge is different [from Philia] because it is related to dependency and familiarity rather than chosen through mutual feeling. We do not choose to experience storge; it’s simply part of our relationship with that person.”
5.) Ludus: playful, casual love
This love is usually platonic, like a close friendship, but can also be flirting with a crush.
6.) Pragma: compatibility, connection, steadiness
This love is really the pragmatic, practical side of love, often associated with arranged marriages.
7.) Philautia: self-love!
All that self-care belongs in the category!
Some sources also list an eighth type of love: mania, obsessive love. This was the kind of love that associated the stories of Dionysus’ closest followers, the Maenads. These maidens, often accompanied by satyrs, would fall into a kind of maddened rage and destroy literally everything. I wouldn’t recommend reading into the stories if you’ve just eaten; they’re pretty icky.
An aside: Also, because I cannot go a single post without getting excited about some fandom, the themes of agape and eros serve as the foundation for two of the most famous routines from the Yuri!!! on Ice anime. The two Yuri’s (our main character and his rival have the same name, which serves as a running joke throughout the first few episodes) skate to two quite different routines: soft and emotional for agape vs. fiery and explosive for eros.
Now that we’ve looked into the types of love, let’s get into a few obscure-ish words I never really hear for Valentine’s. (I avoided the usual sweetheart, heartthrob, cherish, kiss, etc.) in favor of some more obscure-ish words.
1.) Billet-doux (noun): a love letter
Literally “sweet letter” in French. Anyone write any love notes this month? Or have you read any books that involve people writing or reading love letters?
2.) Cordiform (adjective): heart-shaped <3
Most Valentines’ themed things tend to be cordiform, which just sounds so not romantic but so fun anyway.
3.) Dote (verb): to love or admire (often too much)
The word itself just sounds sweet and cute to me :’)
4.) Canoodle (verb): to cuddle
Upon hearing this word, I imagine sentient pool noodles hugging or those floppy balloon guys outside of car dealerships swatting one another with their arms affectionately.
When I Googled what these are called, the Internet does not have one consensus, but here are some lovely names for them: Tall Guy, Air Dancer, Tube Man, Used Car Lot Inflatable Dude, Wild Dancing Noodle.
5.) Ardency (noun): intense feeling or devotion, passion, fierce brightness
You know, like a certain someone must express his feelings most ardently for one Elizabeth Bennet.
Also, the word comes from Latin ardere “to burn.” This is apt timing, as I just finished ND Stevenson’s The Fire Never Goes Out. In case you didn’t know, they also have a newsletter that I scan my inbox for every other day because their work is just so good and raw and powerful.
Check them out here:
6.) Ardor (noun): great warmth, passion, feeling, strong devotion
Pretty much the same as ardent or ardency.
Fun with Word History
In Psychology Today, Neel Burton M.D. links our modern concept of romantic love (think fairy tale romances) to the emergence of the novel. Now that’ll be a topic for another letter, because of course I need to go research this some more now. And you just know ya girl is coming back (at some point) with a thesis statement somewhere along the lines of how fairy tales, chivalry, and celebrity culture have contributed to our modern concept of love and how that has affected─ you get the point.
During a reading break while researching this post, I happened to read palisatrium’s “Webster's 1913 Dictionary - A Hidden Gem” on Substack. It’s a website that pulls literary sources to come up with multiple definitions for a word. It’s a really lovely find, so I appreciate palisatrium for discussing it.
Also, check out their newsletter, “Short Story!”
And, for good measure, here are some assorted tidbits I found while researching:
The use of date in a romantic sense did not originate until the 20th century.
“Head over heels” may sound right to us nowadays, but it actually originated as “heels over head” in the 1400s and was apparently written down incorrectly around the 1600s.
Love bird is an actual bird, a parrot from Madagascar and Africa.
Oh my gosh, apparently a score of zero is called “love” in tennis? https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/word-origin-of-love-in-tennis
For more Valentines-related words, check this article out: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/language-of-love-words-for-valentines-day?utm_campaign=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=wotd&utm_content=peoplearereading-lowerleft
A note on defining love: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/lexical-defining-vs-real-defining?utm_campaign=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=wotd&utm_content=peoplearereading-upperleft
Hungry for the commercialized chocolate side of le Valentine Month? Try this on for size:
I had no idea about this feud and it’s honestly so fascinating! Also “Snack Stack” is a phenomenal newsletter, so please check out more of their content!
Anyone have any other love-related words or tidbits to add? This is definitely just a quick look!
Hope you have a good rest of your February!
Best wishes and happy reading,
Works Cited (MLA 9th Ed.)
Arangua, Michael. “What Are the Different Types of Love?” BetterHelp, BetterHelp, 31 Jan. 2022, https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/love/what-are-the-different-types-of-love/.
“Ardent Definition & Meaning.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/ardency.
“Ardor.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/ardor.
“Billet-doux.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/billet-doux.
Burton, Neel. “These Are the 7 Types of Love - Psychology Today.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, LLC, 25 June 2016, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201606/these-are-the-7-types-love.
“Cordiform.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cordiform.
“Dote (on).” Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/dote%20%28on%29.
Editors of GreekMythology.com. “Eros.” Greek Mythology.com, Greek Mythology.com, 8 Apr. 2021, https://www.greekmythology.com/Other_Gods/Eros/eros.html.
“Eros/Amor/Cupid.” Rijksmuseum, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/rijksstudio/subjects/erosamor/cupid.
“12 Words and Phrases for Romantic Relationships.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/origins-of-words-on-love-romantic-relationships/blind-double-hot-date.