What is Love?

By Cathy Shan (‘23)

As Valentine’s Day approaches, love starts to fill the air as people frantically run around, trying to remember what their significant other’s idea of a perfect Valentine’s Day is. However, unlike those around me, I found myself asking the same question, one that seemed incredibly simple yet so difficult to answer: What is love?

It’s a term that we hear throughout our lives. A word most commonly associated with fondness. According to Webster’s dictionary, love is the “strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties.” While this is true, I felt that there was more to love than this simple definition. 

Seeking to answer this question, I turned to the etymology of “love.” With origins from Old English, “love” was termed “lufu,” which derived from the Sanskrit word “lubhyati” (meaning ‘desire’) and Latin words “libet” (meaning ‘it is pleasing’) and “libido” (‘desire’). “Lufu” was originally a noun only used to describe “deep affection” or “fondness towards something.” Over time, “love” eventually adopted several new meanings and uses. In the 11th century, “love” was used to describe a beloved person and developed into describing the interactions between lovers, such as love letters and love songs. 

Although this gave me a significant amount of information about the history of “love,” I didn’t find these results satisfactory to my question. Other search results produced the same unsatisfactory answers as the Webster definition: love is a deep affection towards someone, a strong emotional connection to a person, a strong liking to something, etc.

Just as I was about to give up on my question, I received a letter from an old friend, a friend who I hold very close to my heart. Aside from the letter, they included an old photo from five or six years ago, bringing back a sea of memories. As I was reminiscing the past, my answer appeared to me, as clear as day, yet something no definition can tell you. 

After recounting countless memories and experiences, this is my answer: Love is when your friends stay up all night with you, even when you don’t ask them to, just so that you can do well on the next day’s exam. Love is when your parents nurse you back to health during times when you are ill, even if it means that they get sick in return. Love is when your neighbors send you food for an entire month after the death of a close family member. It is beautiful, like a flower blooming in the spring. It takes time to nurture and care for it, but when it finally blooms, it’s marvelous and spectacular.

There are no words to define “love” in all of its beauty. However, this was the best definition that I could come up with: Love is a diverse feeling of compassion and affection towards others, usually expressed through someone’s kind and selfless actions. 

Now, more than ever, we need to express love, not just to our friends and family, but to our community. Our affection can be shown in several ways, from wearing masks to ensure that people around us can stay safe to little acts of kindness to first-aid responders and workers that help the community during difficult times. With all of the chaos and dilemmas around us, if everyone can show a bit of compassion to each other, it would be a beacon of light that cuts through the surrounding darkness. 

Even though there is an official definition of “love,” everyone has a unique interpretation of what it means. So now I ask you: what does love mean to you?

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