Love by Any Other Name…

by Amy Mcgarry

The Icelandic language has 46 words for snow. Supposedly, the Scots have 421. Americans have 13 words for sandwich (hoagie, grinder, hero, etc.).
But how many words do we have in the English language for love? I’m not the first to ask this question and I won’t be the last. Even Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and I’m done celebrating romantic love for the year, I’m obsessing over the scarcity of words that accurately define the different kinds of love we enjoy. How frustrating that I even have to use the adjective “romantic” to describe the kind of love we celebrated on Valentine’s Day. Surely that love should have its own word that is different from my love of pizza.

If you Google synonyms for love, you’ll find I’m not the only one struggling with this question. The first question that shows up under “People ask” is “What is a better word for love?” Then Google gives you the following list: “appetite, fancy, favor, like, liking, partiality, preference, relish, taste. craving, crush, desire, infatuation, longing, lust, yearning. ardor, eagerness, enthusiasm, fervor, zeal. appreciation, esteem, estimation, regard, respect. adoration, adulation, deification, idolatry, and idolization”.

Not a single one of those words accurately expresses my love for my husband. None convey my love for my daughter. None relate to my love for my parents, siblings, pets, or friends. Definitely not a single one of these can communicate the depth of my love for chocolate. I love to travel, too. But that’s certainly not how I felt towards my 7th grade boyfriend, to whom I vowed eternal “love.”

Which of these loves is the hoagie? Which the grinder?

When the Beatles sang “All you need is love,” certainly they didn’t mean infatuation. “All you need is infatuation” isn’t very catchy, nor poetic. When the bible says “love thy neighbor”, I know for a fact it’s not referring to the lust synonym. That synonym holds a different and opposite role in the bible.

Google provides yet more insight into this problem. People search: “deep words for love, pure love synonyms, and intense love synonyms”.
All this Google research made me think. I don’t have to look up words for sandwich. When I see a hoagie, I know it’s a hoagie. When I see a grinder, I know it’s a grinder. I don’t sit and think, what is the word for sandwich that accurately conveys the meaning of sandwich? We don’t need descriptors like round or square. We don’t need adjectives because our language gives us the precise words, hero, and submarine. And yet, the English language fails us completely in regards to love.

Another Google search gave me the synonyms “smitten” and “besotted”, which definitely describe how I felt about my husband during our courtship. But after 12 years of marriage, I would use a different word for the love I feel for him now. Except that word for love, as far as I know, doesn’t exist. Why doesn’t the English language have a separate word that describes the love I feel for my husband after the blazing flame of desire has evolved so elegantly into a different love.

Year after year together, day after day, with the ups and downs, the good times and the bad, we go through so much together with our life partners. Together we raise children with all the challenges inherent in that journey. We support each other through crises. We get sick. Our loved ones pass on. What is the word that describes the “love” we feel after sharing so much together?

Valentine’s Day was my husband’s and my 12th wedding anniversary. What can I say? He’s my hoagie, my grinder, my submarine. He’s my open-faced, grilled, hero piled high with all the fixings, dripping with mayo and mustard. Which calls to mind one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite characters, in one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride. “True love is the greatest thing in the world—except for a nice MLT—mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe.” Here Miracle Max reminds us of the fuzzy, gray area, the blurring of lines across our loves. He loves a sandwich, comparing it to that highest of loves, “true love”, or “twoo wuv”. Until a new word gets invented to describes this love I feel for my husband after 12 years of marriage, I will settle for “true love”, the best sandwich of all the loves. Happy 12th Anniversary to my Twoo Wuv!

Amy McGarry grew up in Spokane Valley, Washington. After a 20 year hiatus, she moved back to Spokane Valley where she lives with her husband, daughter and two cats. She teaches English as a Second Language at Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute, the American branch of Mukogawa Women’s University in Japan. I am Farang is her first book and available on and Auntie’s Bookstore.