Tarot Card Terms and Definitions From A–Z

Updated September 17, 2021
Woman is reading Tarot cards on a table in cafe

For those who are unfamiliar with tarot terminology, LoveToKnow has created this mini-dictionary of tarot card definitions. Understanding the words associated with tarot readings is useful for the tarot reader to convey information more clearly. Tarot card definitions are also helpful to those seeking information from a tarot reading.

Tarot Card Terms and Definitions A-H

Aces: The ones of each suit. The Aces have particular importance in tarot, each one being a certain kind of beginning.

Arcana: The word arcana means secret or mystery. Arcana is associated with tarot decks because they reveal secrets. Arcana refers to the two distinct parts of a Tarot deck, Major Arcana, and Minor Arcana.

Baton: Another name for the Minor Arcana suit of Wands

Blades: Another name for the Minor Arcana suit of Swords.

Cartomancy: Foretelling the future through the reading of cards.

Celtic Cross: A popular tarot card spread. The Celtic Cross spread contains ten cards that represent the current state of affairs and the future.

Chalice: Another name for the Minor Arcana suit of Cups

Clubs: Another name for the Minor Arcana suit of Wands

Coins: Another name for the Minor Arcana suit of Pentacles

Court Cards: The Court cards are the Page, Knight, Queen, and King. Each of the four suits has four Court cards. These cards usually represent actual people in the querent's life. They can also represent energetic personas the querent has within them.

Cups: One of the four suits of the Minor Arcana. Cups are related to the emotional realm and relationships. They represent the "I feel" parts of life.

Divination: The art of seeking to foresee future events or discover hidden knowledge, usually by interpreting signs, symbols, and omens. In a Tarot reading, this refers to interpreting the symbols, order, and layout of a Tarot spread.

Diviner: Another name for a Tarot card reader

Disks: Another name for the Minor Arcana suit of Pentacles.

Elements: In tarot, the four elements, fire, air, earth, and water, are forces of nature embodied in the four Minor Arcana suits.

  • Swords-Air
  • Cups-Water
  • Wands-Fire
  • Pentacles-Earth

Fool: The Fool is considered one of the Major Arcana. Some readers remove this card from their Tarot deck before the reading begins.

Goblets: Another name the Minor Arcana suit of Cups

Gypsies: Nomadic people originating in Europe. Much of modern tarot information is based on the techniques and history of gypsy ancestry.

Hearts: Another name for the Minor Arcana suit of Cups

Tarot Card Terms and Definitions I-P

Initiant: A person who is learning new knowledge about the tarot.

Interpreter: Is used in reference to a tarot card reader as the person that clarifies the message within a tarot reading.

Jumper: A jumper is a card that 'jumps' or falls out of the deck while being shuffled or when another card is being drawn. Jumpers are placed outside the spread and given special consideration.

Journey: This is often used as a metaphor in tarot. Journey may refer to traveling through one's own thoughts and feelings to arrive at an answer. The major arcana is considered to be a metaphor for the journey through life.

Layout: This is another word for a tarot card spread.

Major Arcana: This refers to the first 22 cards of the tarot deck. These cards are usually considered the key cards of the deck. They deal with large affairs, spiritual and personal development, the supernatural and divine, and life-changing events, such as births, deaths, marriages, and important decisions.

Set of 22 tarot major arcana

Minor Arcana: In a Tarot reading, these 56 cards provide support and nuances to the 22 cards of the major arcana and usually deal with day-to-day events.

Oracle: Oracle is another name for a Tarot card reader.

Pentacles: The Minor Arcana suit of Pentacles is connected with the physical realm and practical matters like finances, health, and shelter. This suit covers the "I have" parts of life.

Pip: Pip cards are the Minor Arcana cards of each suit that are numbered two to ten. They are generally meant to address the day-to-day kinds of events and dilemmas.

Tarot Card Terms and Definitions Q-Z

Querent: The person seeking information from a tarot reading.

Reversals: Cards that appear upside down in a tarot reading. Some tarot readers assign an opposite meaning to the traditional one if a card is reversed.

Rods: Another name for the Tarot suit of Wands

Rings: Another name for the Minor Arcana suit of Pentacles.

Rider Waite Tarot: Possibly the most well-known tarot deck in the Western World.

Scepters: Another name for the Minor Arcana suit of Wands

Significator: The tarot card that represents the querent in a tarot reading.

Smudging: A purification ritual that uses smoke to cleanse the tarot deck. Sage is often used in this practice to lift away negative influence.

American Indian Herbal Smudge Stick Burning

Spades: Another name for the Minor Arcana suit of Swords

Spread: A spread is the specific way Tarot cards are laid out. Spreads can incorporate any number of cards laid in many patterns. The tarot card's meaning will differ depending on where it is placed in a spread.

Staves: Another name for the Minor Arcana suit of Wands

Suits: There are four suits. Each is primarily associated with a different part of life.

Swords: The Minor Arcana suit of Swords represents the intellectual realm and the logical mind. This suit covers the "I think parts of life.

Symbology: This is the practice of studying symbols. Tarot is based on symbols, and readers interpret their meanings.

Tarot: A deck of 78 cards used for fortune-telling, spiritual growth, and self-help.

Taroc: Another word for tarot.

Trumps: Another name for the Major Arcana.

Vessels: Another word for the minor Arcana suit of Cups

Wands: The Wands of the Minor Arcana are associated with fire and action. They deal with passion, desire, creativity, activism, and ideas.

Yod: In the Bohemian tarot, yod is the first card taken and represents the creator.

About Tarot Card Terms and Definitions

This list of tarot card terms and definitions covers many of the most commonly used terms used by tarot professionals and enthusiasts. For a more extensive understanding of the language of tarot, consider getting a copy of Jane Riley's book Tarot Dictionary and Compendium. This book discusses the meanings of the cards as well as many commonly used terms in tarot.

Tarot Card Terms and Definitions From A–Z