Looking for Love

No, we can't tell you how long it lasts

"Dear _____," the letter began. It was from a senior editor, a response to one of the hundreds of reader queries we answer each year. "We thank you for your letter, but your question about how long love lasts is not something we can answer."

dictionary love

Lookups for 'love' spike every February. But most readers aren't looking for the word's etymology.

Love is always a common lookup, but in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, it rises to the top of our list of words people search for in the dictionary. It’s surprising because it’s such a common word—not hard to spell, like camaraderie, or hard to pronounce, like niche. The words people look up most are common words for abstract concepts: culture and science, pragmatic and socialism.

Love, unlike many other abstract concepts, is something people are asked regularly to define for themselves. In this case, readers may be looking for something more like philosophy. They use the dictionary definition as a point of departure for questions that go beyond what a word means, toward the emotions that the word stands for.

To all those looking for love this Valentine's Day, we can only repeat what we told that hopeful correspondent some years ago:

Love letter