Positive Psychologist Tim Lomas has published a study in the Journal for the Theory of Social Analysis on the different flavours of love: The flavours of love: A cross-cultural lexical analysis.
No emotion, surely, is as cherished and sought after as love. Yet on occasions such as Valentine’s day, we can often be misled into thinking that it consists solely in the swooning, star-crossed romance of falling deeply “in love”. But on reflection, love is far more complex. Indeed, arguably no word covers a wider range of feelings and experiences than love.
So how can we ever define what love really is? In my new study, published in the Journal for the Theory of Social Analysis, I’ve made a start by searching the world’s languages for words relating to love that don’t exist in English.
Lomas has analysed words from around 50 languages, probably Pali not being among them; so the word mettā isn’t explicitly mentioned. But it probably comes pretty close to the Greek agápē. In fact Greek is the language which contributed by far the most words to Lomas’ list!
Here's the abstract to the article
Linguists have often remarked upon the polysemous nature of love, whereby the term encompasses a wide diversity of emotional relationships. Several typologies have been constructed to account for this diversity. However, these tend to be restricted in scope, and fail to fully represent the range of experiences signified by the term ‘love’ in discourse. In the interest of generating an expanded typology of love, encompassing its varied forms, an enquiry was conducted into relevant concepts found across the world’s cultures, focusing on so-called untranslatable words. Through a quasi-systematic search of published and internet sources, 609 relevant words were identified. These were organised through a version of grounded theory into 14 categories, representing 14 different forms or ‘flavours’ of love. The result is an expanded theoretical treatment of love, allowing us to better appreciate the nuances of this most cherished and yet polysemous of concepts.