Bible Question:

How many words are there in the Greek language for love? I've heard of AGAPE love. What are the definitions of all the different words?

Bible Answer:

There are four major words for love: AGAPE, PHILEO, EROS, and STERGO. There are also a number of variations of these words such as AGAPETOS, ASTORGOS, KATAPHILEO, PHILADELPHIA, PHILANTHROPIA, PHILEMA, PHILIA, PHILOS, PHILOSTORGOS.

Four Main Words

AGAPE is the most common word for love in the New Testament. It occurs 259 times as a verb or as a noun. PHILOS and PHILEO occur only 54 times. EROS and STERGO do not occur at all in the New Testament.

English FormMeaning
AGAPEThis word was used in Greek literature to refer to someone who was generously favored by a god. It has the idea of a person giving all his or her love or favor to another. It was used to speak of parents giving all of their love to their only child. So in the New Testament it is used to make the same point. God gives each of us all of His love.
PHILEOThis Greek word has the idea of emotional love. While AGAPE emphasizes the complete giving of love to another person, PHILEO emphasizes the affection, emotion, a fondness one person has for another.
EROSEROS refers to love between a husband and wife. It is more than sexual ecstasy because it also includes embraces, longing, and caring.
STERGOSTERGO primarily refers to love between parents and children. It sometimes refers to love between people and their ruler and to love between a dog and his owner.

The Other Words

The other words for love combine different words to make a special point. The meanings of these words are briefly given below.

English FormMeaning
AGAPETOSBeloved or loved one.
ASTORGOSWithout love.
PHILADELPHIABrotherly love.
PHILANTHROPIALove for mankind
PHILIA Friendship love.
PHILOSA love for a friend or relative.
PHILOSTORGOSTender love or affectionate love.


AGAPE is the most common word used in the New Testament. The greatest example of love is Jesus Christi who died for our sins. God shows His love by rescuing us from our sins if that is what we desire.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. (NASB) John 3:16

It is the word God uses to call us to love Him and others. He is calling us to give Him all of our love and give others all of our love. The emphasis is not an exclusive love but a total love. Otherwise, we would only be able to love one person.

And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ (NASB) Matt. 22:37-39

God calls us to give ourselves completely to Him in every way – heart, soul, and mind. He also asks us to have an emotional love for Him in 1 Corinthians 16:22.

Suggested Links:

Does God love us with PHILEO love?
Searching For God