Love (cultural views)

This page contains cultural views on the topic of love.

Cultural views


In Confucianism, lian is a virtuous benevolent love. Lian should be pursued by all human beings, and reflects a moral life. The Chinese philosopher Mozi developed the concept of ai in reaction to Confucian lian. Ai, in Mohism, 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 of love.

G?nqíng, the feeling of a relationship. A person will express love by building good g?nqíng, accomplished through helping or working for another. Emotional attachment toward another person or anything.

Yuanfen is a connection of bound destinies. A meaningful relationship is often conceived of as dependent strong yuanfen. It is very similar to serendipity. A similar conceptualization in English is, "They were made for each other," "fate," or "destiny".

Zaolian (Simplified: ??, Traditional: ??, pinyin: z?oliàn), "puppy love" or 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 teenaged boyfriend and girlfriend, as well as the "crushes" of early adolescence or childhood. The concept essentially indicates a prevalent belief in contemporary Chinese culture 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 success in the future. 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.


In Japanese Buddhism, ai is passionate caring love, and a fundamental desire. It can develop towards either selfishness or selflessness and enlightenment.

Amae, 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 (most notably, Takeo Doi) have suggested that Japanese social interactions in later life are modeled on the mother-child amae.

Linguistically, the two most common words for love are ai ???and koi . Generally speaking, most forms of non-romantic love are expressed using the former, while romantic love is expressed using the latter. "Parental love", for example, is oya no ai, while "to be in love with" is koi suru . There are of course exceptions. The word aijin means "lover" and implies an illicit, often extramarital relationship, whereas koibito has the connotation of "boyfriend", "girlfriend", or "partner".

In everyday conversation, however, ai and koi are rarely used because to many Japanese people the word "ai" sounds either overly dramatic or desperate. Rather than using ai shiteiru or koi shiteiru to say "I love you", for example, most Japanese would say daisuki desu, which literally means "I really like you" -- suki being the same word used to express preferences for food, music, etc., as in sushi ga suki desu, or "I like sushi." Rather than diluting the sentiment, however, the implied meaning of "love" is understood.


Greek distinguishes 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 Bible has examples of the verb agapo being used with the same meaning as phileo.

Agape ( 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 soul".

Eros ( ér?s) is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. The Greek word erota means in love. Plato 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".

Philia ( philía), means friendship in modern Greek, a dispassionate virtuous love, was a concept developed by 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.

Storge ( storge) means affection in modern Greek; it is natural affection, like that felt by parents for offspring.

Xenia , means hospitality in modern Greek, was an extremely important practice in ancient Greece. It was an almost ritualized friendship formed between a host and their guest, who could previously be strangers. The host fed and provided quarters for the guest, who was only expected to repay with gratitude. The importance of this can be seen throughout Greek mythology, in particular Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.


The Latin language has several different verbs corresponding to the English word 'love'.

Amore 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, 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' ed on 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 Lovers), which addresses in depth everything from extramarital affairs to overprotective parents.

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, and the latter of which is used frequently in the love poetry of Catullus.

Diligere often has the notion 'to be affectionate for', 'to esteem', and rarely if ever is used of romantic love. This word would be appropriate to describe the friendship between two men. The corresponding noun diligentia, however, has the meaning 'diligence' 'carefulness' and has little semantic overlap with the verb.

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.


In Indonesia, the word Cinta literally means love and describes the interpersonal feeling of affection. In everyday conversation, Cinta gives more romantic and dramatic value, but in some condition, cinta kasih can describe a general love and compassion. Kasih literally means giving, however, Kekasih (kasih with infix -ek-) means a lover. However, in everyday conversation, sayang is used more generally as an expression of romantic affection.

Filipino Concepts

In Filipino concepts love is expressed in a wide variety of terms. What is interesting, is that in Filipino culture, love is divided between purely personal and reciprocal variants. These terms are conveyed in the Tagalog, the most widely-spoken language in the Philippines beside English:

Ibig is used to imply a fond love, and is used in to convey desire in an affection. An example is: "Umibig si Ningning kay Buboy" (Ningning loves Buboy). It is a commonly used term in casual conversation of the topic. Yet in courtship or between couples, the term "Iniibig kita" - "I love you" is understood to be an intimate, romantic love.(Cebuano language: Gugma)

Mahal implies a highly valued affection. Its literal meaning is close to the English word "dear", in terms of expense, with an emphasis on that love being reciprocal. An example would be the phrase "Mahal kita" - "I love you". As well as being a main term for love between partners or in courtship, it is also the main term to express Platonic love. An example phrase is: "Mahalin mo ang iyong mga Magulang" (Love your parents.)

Giliw is used to term a "yearning intent love" harboured personally for someone, declared or undeclared. It has connotations of personal loneliness when the partner or person for whom such feelings are directed towards, is absent. Used in situations to prove or emphasize a persons affections for another. It is also used as an endearing address similar to the English word "baby".

Sinta is a confident reciprocal established romantic love between partners, where both partners consider an equally high affection for each other. Because sinta is an archaic term (equivalent linguistically to the Malay/Indonesian word Cinta, but differing in its exact connotation), it is considered malalim (deep) and poetic. Hence sinta is rarely used in everyday conversation, but may be used by couples in an address similar to the English terms "darling" or "dearest".

Pagnanais is used to convey a heavy desire with a main focus on the partner or courtee. It places focus on the actor achieving a higher stage of affection, such as sinta, with the object of affection. In contrast to the other terms, the linguistic element of pagnanais, which has its root in nais (to want), is a more grave wanting love. Because of the root word's meaning, it is avoided as a term in conversation when referring to affections, but its rather used for "wanting and liking" a certain object.

The Urdu Language

In the Urdu language (the official language of Pakistan) there are several different words for love. Used in specific contexts they display the diverse levels of intensity of love. "Ishq" is the word that is used for the most intense form of love. Ishq is divided into two categories; "Ishq-e-ilahi" is the love for God and "Ishq-e-Majazi" is the love for another human being. Ishq is defined as unconditional and undying love for the other. "Pyar" and "Mohabbat" are two other more commonly used words to define love.

See also


  1. Roger Allen, Hillar Kilpatrick, and Ed de Moor, eds. Love and Sexuality in Modern Arabic Literature. London: Saqi Books, 1995.

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