13 Words For Love You'll Wish Existed In English

by Seth Millstein

Did you know the ancient Greeks had six different words for different kinds of love? Here are some words for love that, unfortunately, don't exist in English. Send it to someone you're at a loss for words for!


Onsay: To pretend to love someone.

Ongubsy: To actually love someone.


Eros: Lust. Sexual desire. Everyone’s familiar with this form of “love,” but ancient Greeks didn’t necessarily think of it as a good thing. They considered it an uncontrollable force that possessed people and made them act illogically. Which sounds about right.

Phillia: Companionate love between two close friends. Aww.

Pragma: Practical, realistic romantic love, like the kind between a couple that’s been married for 20 years. It places a value on things like compromise, common life goals, patience, and other things that, IRL, make a relationship last in the long-run.

Ludus: This could be thought of as “love of the game.” It’s what drives people to participate in the more competitive aspects of relationships — courtship, the chase, the perception of partners as “conquests,” etc. Even intense flirtation and dancing would fall into this category. (Helpful in precipitating one-night stands kinda love.)

Agape: Empathy for fellow humans. This is “unconditional” love that extends to all of humanity.

Philautia (1): This is “self-love,” and can be thought of in two different ways. In its best form, this is a necessary form of self-appreciation that allows us to form meaningful relationships with others (you can’t expect someone to love you until you love yourself, as the adage goes).

Philautia (2): At its worst, philautia takes the form of narcissism, selfishness, egomania and other forms of detrimental self-obsession. This is, obviously, to be avoided.


Chesed: The general love of humanity that inspires people to do kind things for one another. It’s closely tied to the relationship between God and humanity — God did a generous thing by creating you, so you should do generous things for your fellow humans in return. Paying it forward kinda love, basically.


Ai: A category of words that encompasses non-romantic love. It includes everything maternal affection (boseiai) and patriotism (aikokushin) to book-loving (aidokusho) and the bond between a dog and his or her owner (aikenka).

Koi: Romantic love, but often in a not-so-great way. It includes things like disappointed love (shitsuren), sad love (hiren), a rival in love (koigataka) and first love (hatsukoi).

Renai: A combination of the characters for “ai” and “koi,” this is romantic love without a negative slant. Finally!

and finally, this:

*This is a rough translation of the proverb; in Czech, it's Kolik jazyku znas, tolikrat jsi clovekem.