Agape – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to express your love or affection for someone else that has a religious meaning? Maybe you want to explain the Christian affection that should be shared between others of the same faith? “Agape” is a great way to get your point across. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The term “agape” has multiple different meanings. In religious contexts, the phrase is used to refer to brotherly love, or the platonic affection that is shared between Christians and other people. It is the unselfish love of one person for another, but purely in a friendship or appreciative way. It is never used to mean something sexual in this context.

Used as an adjective, it means “astonished”, “surprised”, or “shocked”. It can also refer to something that is wide open or that has a large hole in it. Since this term has multiple different meanings, context is important in determining what the user intends when they say this term.

More information can be found in the video (here).

Example Usage

“The love between a mother and child is the truest form of agape that exists.”

“I stood there with my mouth agape, shocked at what I was seeing.”

“The Grand Canyon stands agape on the surface of the Earth.”

“Tony and Amber share a love that is pure agape.”

“Because the door stood agape, I could see all the way down the hallway to Ashley in her bedroom.”


This phrase has roots that can be traced back to the 1600s. It comes from the Greek word agape that meant “brotherly love” or “charity”. In Ecclesiastical use, the phrase meant “the love of God for man and man for God”. It is also believed this term came from the verb “agapan”, which means “greet with affection” or “receive with friendship”.

The phrase was used by early Christians as reference to a “love feast”, which was a communal mean held in connection with the Lord’s Supper. As “agape” changed with modern use, it shifted to more commonly mean “Christian love”, and it is believed has referred to such since 1856. It is commonly seen as being the antithesis to “eros”, meaning “carnal or sensual love”.

“Agape” as meaning “with the mouth wide open” (referring to shock, surprise, etc.) also traces its roots back to the 1660s.

Phrases Similar to Agape

  • Platonic
  • Surprised/dumbfounded/etc.
  • Affection
  • Open
  • Wide open

Phrases Opposite to Agape

  • Eros
  • Romantic
  • Unaffectionate/cold/etc.
  • Closed off
  • Unavailable
  • Unsurprised
  • Expectant

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Depending on the context, “agape” may mean “platonic love”, “shocked”, or “wide open”.

Ways People May Incorrectly Say Agape

This phrase has multiple meanings, and thus can be easy to use incorrectly. It refers to brotherly or Christian love, being shocked or surprised, or something that is wide open. With this in mind, using the term to refer to anything outside of these common definitions would be incorrect.

Some ways that “agape” is used incorrectly are:

  • Jessica and Brad have been dating for two years. The love they have is agape.
  • I knew what was going to happen before it did. So I was agape when it did finally happen.
  • That door is sealed shut tightly. It is agape.
  • I was agape when I found out about Carrie’s baby. I knew all along!

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Agape

  • I had no idea that was going to happen. I was agape when I saw the crash!
  • Todd and Chad are the sweetest brothers I’ve ever seen. Their love is agape.
  • The love a father shares with his son is truly agape.
  • All of the water came rushing out of the dam, as the hole that had recently formed in it left it agape.
  • The love and concern found in a Christian fellowship is properly referred to as Agape love.
  • After the mortar drilled through the encampment, the entrance was left agape and shattered.

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