Sanskrit dictionaries list several words for loving, arranged in order of both intensity and degree of attachment. Snehah meant fondness, anurahah implied devotion, while manmathah was reserved for passionate and presumably sexual commitment. Priyate simply meant to love someone, and priya was the word for dearest, beloved. The words are etymologically distinct from one another, but linked directly to the IE root pri, meaning love. Pri had at its outset only the single meaning of love, but later, in Old Englsh, the words became freo and freond, providing modern English with both free and friend, both still with a half-buried sense of loving, or at least affection.
Another word for preference, much thinner and less committed than loving and its cognates, is like. We say we like so-and-so, or such-and-such, meaning something like friendship and a mild wish, but with a reversible sense always there in case. Old English lician, and Gothic leikan meant to please. Oddly, the same IE root, lik, is the origin of the pleasing sort of like, and also of like when used in its sense of something similar, alike, and the like that is partly cut away at the ends of words and replaced by -ly. Lively, for instance, was live-like, likely was like-like, lovely was assuredly love-like. Like is still useful, in some contexts indispensable, but nothing like as heavy a word as love and the cousins of love. It implies a choice when the odds favor that choice in the mind, but always the option of withdrawal if it turns out not to one’s liking. I like this-or-that, for the present; tomorrow we can think again. Or, tossed in front of friendly sentences: “Like wow!”; “Like it’s raining.” Or tossed behind, as in an OED example from a 1966 magazine: “C’est la vie, like!”
- Lewis Thomas - Et Cetera, Et Cetera: Notes Of A Word Watcher (1990)