When you grow up in a big family and happen to be one of the youngest, the word love is something you can’t remember not knowing. You may not know how to spell it or exactly what it means, but you know it must be something really special, because everyone says it to you all the time and it’s usually accompanied by a hug, pat on the head or a kiss on the cheek.
As a parent I’ve found the best way to teach my son the concept of love is through my own actions. It must be working, because I often hear my son telling our cat Earl Grey, how much he loves him.
The English word love goes back to Old English lufu a millennium ago, and it was the word you used when you desired or liked anything, or it pleased you.
It goes back to a Proto-Indo-European word over 5000 years ago that meant desiring or feeling positive feelings toward someone.
Many languages have several words for love, which is useful because our own word covers so much ground — love of a parent, friendship, intimate passion, really liking a food, etc.
In ancient Greek, for ex., there is Eros for desire, storge for family obligational affection, philia for friendship love, agape for spiritual love, etc.
I don’t think I will be introducing any of these ancient words into my vocabulary anytime soon, but it’s nice to know the origins of a word that carries so much power in our lives.