The seven kinds of love

Our Festival of Love explores and celebrates the complexity of human relationships in all their forms. All of us hold feelings for others, but these feelings differ according to the people and the circumstance. In the English language there is only one word to describe all of them: LOVE.

It wasn’t always so. The Ancient Greeks had around 30 words to describe Love in all its shades and complexities. At Southbank Centre’s Festival of Love, we have chosen seven of the most powerful of these words to guide us towards a greater understanding of the emotion which makes the world go round.

These are:

Agape – the love of humanity

The kind of love which makes us sorrowful when we hear of a crisis in another nation (or our own); that makes us give our time or money to charity; and makes us feel connected to people we don’t know simply on the basis of our shared experience as human beings.

Storge – family love

The love a parent has for a child, or a child has for a favourite aunt or uncle. The love a foster parent feels for the children in her care and the love a grandparent feels for the child adopted by his son- and daughter-in-law. 

Pragma – love which endures

The love between a married couple which develops over a long period of time. The love which endures in sickness and in health. The love which makes a friend care for their former school friend who has become vulnerable in later life. 

Philautia – self-respect

The love we give to ourselves. This is not vanity, like narcissism, but our joy in being true to our own values. The strength to care for ourselves so that we can in turn care for others. 

Philia – shared experience

The love we feel for people we strive with to achieve a shared goal – our co-workers, the players in a football or netball team, the soldiers in an army.

Ludus – flirting, playful affection

The feelings we have when we test out what it might be like to be in love with someone. The fluttering heart and feelings of euphoria; the slightly dangerous sensation. 

Eros – romantic and erotic love

Based on sex and powerful magnetism. It’s the one which can get us into the most trouble. It can turn into other kinds of love – like pragma – but it starts as romance and attraction.