Love encompasses a variety of different emotional and mental states, typically strongly and positively experienced, ranging from the deepest interpersonal affection to the simplest pleasure. An example of this range of meanings is that the love of a mother differs from the love of a spouse differs from the love of food. Most commonly, love refers to a feeling of strong attraction and personal attachment. Love can also be a virtue representing human kindness, compassion, and affection "the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another. It may also describe compassionate and affectionate actions towards other humans, one's self or animals.
Ancient Greek philosophers identified four forms of love: essentially, familial love (in Greek, storge), friendly love (philia), romantic love (eros), and divine love (agape). Modern authors have distinguished further varieties of love: infatuated love, self-love, and courtly love. Non-Western traditions have also distinguished variants or symbioses of these states. Love has additional religious or spiritual meaning. This diversity of uses and meanings combined with the complexity of the feelings involved makes love unusually difficult to consistently define, compared to other emotional states.
Love in its various forms acts as a major facilitator of interpersonal relationships and, owing to its central psychological importance, is one of the most common themes in the creative arts.
Love may be understood as a function to keep human beings together against menaces and to facilitate the continuation of the species.
The word love can have a variety of related but distinct meanings in different contexts. Many other languages use multiple words to express some of the different concepts that in English are denoted as love; one example is the plurality of Greek words for love which includes agape and eros. Cultural differences in conceptualizing love thus doubly impede the establishment of a universal definition.
Although the nature or essence of love is a subject of frequent debate, different aspects of the word can be clarified by determining what isn't love (antonyms of love). Love as a general expression of positive sentiment (a stronger form of like) is commonly contrasted with hate (or neutral apathy); as a less sexual and more emotionally intimate form of romantic attachment, love is commonly contrasted with lust; and as an interpersonal relationship with romantic overtones, love is sometimes contrasted with friendship, although the word love is often applied to close friendships. (Further possible ambiguities come with usages girlfriend, boyfriend, just good friends).
Abstractly discussed love usually refers to an experience one person feels for another. Love often involves caring for, or identifying with, a person or thing (cf. vulnerability and care theory of love), including oneself (cf. narcissism). In addition to cross-cultural differences in understanding love, ideas about love have also changed greatly over time. Some historians date modern conceptions of romantic love to courtly Europe during or after the Middle Ages, although the prior existence of romantic attachments is attested by ancient love poetry.
The complex and abstract nature of love often reduces discourse of love to a thought terminating cliché. Several common proverbs regard love, from Virgil's love conquers all to The Beatles' All You Need Is Love. St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle, defines love as to will the good of another. Bertrand Russell describes love as a condition of absolute value, as opposed to relative value. Philosopher Gottfried Leibniz said that love is to be delighted by the happiness of another. Meher Baba stated that in love there is a feeling of unity and an active appreciation of the intrinsic worth of the object of love. Biologist Jeremy Griffith defines love as unconditional selflessness.