Tarot Card Meaning: What It Means and How to Use It

Have you ever wondered what the phrase “tarot card” means? Click here for a complete guide to the meaning of tarot cards and their history.

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Perhaps you’ve been walking along the street and see a little sign advertising fortune-telling. Or maybe you’ve seen a raggedy table set up in a park with a spiritual-looking person sitting behind it and a deck of cards on top. 

The tarot cards. They’re a fascinating thing, but many people don’t know much about what they are, their history, or how they’re used today. For many, this phrase is confusing and mysterious, but one thing is for sure: it has had a major impact on our culture. 

So, today’s word of the day is “tarot card.” We’re going to unpack the definition of the tarot card, give you a brief history of the phrase, and finish with some examples of the phrase in practice. Let’s get started. 

What Is the Definition of “Tarot Card?” 

Let’s begin with a definition of the phrase. You might know that tarot cards have something to do with fortune-telling, or maybe you’ve heard that they have ties to the occult. Here’s a quick, simple definition:

  • A deck of cards with specific pictures on each card used in fortune-telling to determine a person’s future.

A tarot card deck most commonly has 78 numbered cards with pictures in it, and the cards are divided into two groups: the major arcana and the minor arcana. The minor arcana has 56 cards, and the major arcana has 22 cards. The major arcana act as the “trump cards” of the tarot card deck and carry greater significance in fortune-tellings. 

The minor arcana contains four different suits: wands, cups, swords, and coins (or sometimes pentacles). Each of them carries a specific meaning and has various implications. 

Each tarot deck will look slightly different than the next. There are so many different designs out there. One popular deck even uses various baseball players to represent the traditional tarot deck figures. 

However, each tarot deck will have all 78 cards, and each of those cards should carry the same meaning regardless of the deck used, even though there might be some mild variations.  

Many fortune-tellers use tarot cards as common practice for telling a person’s future. There are various methods by which they do this. The most common tarot reading method is done by drawing three cards from the deck and designating each one as an insight into the person’s past, present, and future. But there are plenty of other methods of tarot spreads.

Where Did the Word “Tarot Card” Come From?

Tarot cards likely originated in the 14th or 15th century. They came from Northern Italy, and they didn’t carry any spiritual significance when they were first created. They were simply used as a fun, entertaining card game to tell an allegorical story. 

The oldest known tarot deck is called the Visconti-Sforza deck, and it is believed that the pictures painted on the cards were inspired by different costumes the artist saw at carnival parades. This and other early versions of the tarot cards were usually handpainted and commissioned by a patron to certain artists. 

In Italy, during this time, the cards were called trionfi or tarrock. Their most common name was tarocchi. The popularity of the deck and the tarocchi game eventually spread throughout the world, specifically to France, where it got its final name, tarot. 

But, again, the deck did not originate with any spiritual meaning whatsoever. They were simply playing cards meant for a funny, entertaining game. It wasn’t until the 18th century that the cards were tied to the occult. 

Antoine Court de Gébelin proposed that the cards carried the wisdom of the ancient Egyptian god of writing, magic, and wisdom. Jean-Baptiste Alliette began to practice tarot card reading, becoming one of the first major tarot readers to make a living. Meanwhile, Eliphas Lévi proposed the cards were connected to the Hebrew alphabet and, thus, that they were related to kabbalah, a tradition from Jewish mysticism.

The Modern Tarot Cards

The popularity of these decks didn’t explode until the 20th century when Pamela Coman Smith illustrated the cards with Arthur Edward Waite. The two of them were members of an occult organization called The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and they had ties to the Freemasons. 

Together they made the Rider-Waite deck, which became quite popular and is still used today. They solidified the order of the major arcana, changing it slightly to fit in with their understanding of the zodiac signs. The order of the major arcana cards now is as follows:

      0.   The Fool

  1. The Magician
  2. The High Priestess
  3. The Empress
  4. The Emperor 
  5. The Hierophant
  6. The Lovers
  7. The Chariot
  8. Strength
  9. The Hermit
  10. The Wheel of Fortune
  11. Justice
  12. The Hanged Man
  13. Death
  14. Temperance
  15. The Devil 
  16. The Tower
  17. The Star 
  18. The Moon
  19. The Sun
  20. Judgment
  21. The World

What Are Some Examples of “Tarot Card” in a Sentence?

Here are some examples of the phrase tarot card used in a sentence.

My friend and I got tarot card readings yesterday, and the fortune teller’s predictions were surprisingly insightful.

When we have nothing else to do, my friends and I like to do tarot card readings on each other for fun. 

I’m a little freaked out by tarot cards because I know they’re tied to the occult. That stuff is spooky!

I got a tarot card reading once, but that fortune-teller was way off. I think it’s all a bunch of hogwash. 

A Loaded Term

People definitely have a lot of preconceived notions about the phrase tarot card. Many people love them, some people think they’re delusional, and others think they’re demonic. But whatever the case, tarot cards have an interesting history and hold cultural and artistic significance. 

And now you know everything you need to know about the definition of tarot card to use in your writing, speech, and more. If you ever need a refresher, just return to this article. 


  1. Tarot and Oracle Decks | Guides at University of North Texas 
  2. Tarot Cards | Center for Inquiry 
  3. A Visual History of Tarot Cards | MODA Chicago