Love, Desire and Wanting -- Spanish Style!
How Do You Feel?
A Spanish Valentine card reads Te Amo for I love you and certainly it expresses romantic love, but it also expresses the kind of love that is bigger -- such as that known in Greek as agape. The verb amar can also express filial love -- Platonic love -- and paternal and maternal love. Context, if known, will clear up the difference. Context, if not known, could cause unintended expectations.
Likewise, Te quiero means I love you and is the more generally used expression of romantic love. However, as anyone can tell by looking in a dictionary, the verb querer also means to want. So, in a very real and honest way, when one says Te quiero, he or she is expressing a romantic love -- with its necessary ingredient of eros.
The verb desear is strictly a verb that expresses desire. If this verb is used in a romantic context, it is strictly being used in an erotic sense. Yet, when it is not used with a person as the object of the action, it simply means to want.
María, te deseo (Mary, I desire you). -- Clearly an erotic overture.
Deseo una taza de chocolate (I'd like a cup of hot chocolate). -- Obviously just a verb expressing want.
Expanding our horizons in the world of love and desire, the verb adorar is both religious and romantic. We can observe that the ancient Egyptians adored cats, for instance. In this context it means to worship and adore. The verb adorar is also used to express, hyperbolically, one's romantic love, as in to cherish and adore:
Los antiguos egipcios adoraban los gatos (The ancient Egyptians worshipped cats).
¡No te imaginas cuánto te adoro! (You can't imagine how much I adore you!)
Other verbs that refer to romantic love include enamorarse de which is the equivalent of to fall in love with, but it really means to be enamored of:
Juan se enamoró de María (John fell in love with Mary). Note that it literally says John became enamored of Mary.
The same verb gives us the adjective: enamorado, with all its other forms, feminine and plurals. The other expression related to this is estar enamorado/a de -- to be in love with.
Juana está enamorada de Carlos (Juana is in love with Carlos).