The origin of the name "Tarot"?

Dummett, Decker, Depaulis, Kaplan; here we document the people, places, and events that shaped Tarot History. (Credentials not required; but references, citations, and substantiating evidence may be requested at the door.)

Re: The origin of the name "Tarot"?

Postby robert on 27 Apr 2010, 19:06

And here is a link to that thread.

I separated this section out because I thought it was better in the Research area, and would be easier to find for future reference. You win some :-bd , you lose some :-q .
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Re: The origin of the name "Tarot"?

Postby mikeh on 20 May 2010, 08:55

Earlier in this thread (well, the previous thread, actually-- at viewtopic.php?f=12&t=499&start=20#p6784) I presented the theory that the word tarot/tarocchi comes from the Arabic word for "deduction" or "discard," appearing also in the Italian word "tara" and the French "tare," which had been used with this meaning since the early 14th century. I speculated that the term was introduced to distinguish a deck for games involving both the special deck and a new rule about discards, introduced around the time that the name started appearing in the documents.

This is not a theory I thought up; the first I heard of it was at a website by J. Karlin. All I have been trying to do is document it adequately, based on Karlin's brief references. On the other thread, I posted my scans of Le Grand Robert de la Langue Francaise, a highly regarded French dictionary giving this derivation. But I did not have the Dummett book, with which to document the rule change corresponding to the theory. Since then I have been able to get a copy of Dummett's The Game of Tarot and found what I was looking for, such as it is, in chapter 21, "The Early Italian Game."

First let me repeat the word-derivations given in Le Grand Robert, Vol IX. I posted the actual pages on the other thread. For "tarot" it has:
TAROT n.m. --- 1604; 1534, Rabelais; Ital tarocco, de tara "tare", de l'arabe tarh 'Deduction"...

And for "tare":
TARE n.f. --- 1318, "Dechet dans le poids ou de qualite"; It. tara; arabe tarhah, deduction, decompte...

So we know the word has a history before tarot, going back at least to 1318.

"Tare" is also a word in English. Here is what my Webster's New World Dictionary, 1967, says:
tare n.[ Fr.; It. & Sp. tara; Ar. tarhah < taraha, to reject.]. 1. the weight of a container, wrapper, box, truck, etc., deducted from the total weight to determine the weight of the contents or load. 2. the deducton of this.

Now I want to post the part that was missing before, from Dummett, Game of Tarot pp. 426-427. Since the passage is rather long, I will highlight the sentences most important for present purposes:
Now, with very few exceptions, it is characteristic of later Tarot games, of the most diverse kinds and whatever the size of the pack, that there is no stock of undealt cards, but that every card in the pack counts, at the end of the round, to one or another player or side. It is almost equally characteristic that there is a small residue of undealt cards forming a talon, which, in games without bidding, goes to the dealer, and whose distribution, in games with bidding, depends upon the final bid; in each case, those receiving additional cards must discard an equal number, under certain nearly constant constraints. This practice is not a mere device for handling the situation when the number of cards in the pack is not exactly divisible by the number of players, since it is observed in three-handed games, even without bidding, played with the 78-card pack; the most striking example is that of Tarok-Quadrille, played by four players with only 76 cards, in which the dealer still takes four extra cards. Even Minchiate is not a genuine exception to this rule, because, although the mechanics are different, there are still discards, and the principle is upheld that the players should know how many cards of each suit are in play, even though not every card belongs at the end of the round to one side or the other. Both the Bolognese and Sicilian games incorporate the standard practice. It therefore seems overwhelmingly probable that the practice is one going back to an early stage in the history of the Tarot games: the fact that it is found in both Bolognese and Sicilian Tarocchi debars us from supposing that it was invented outside Italy and introduced there only at the time of the invasion of the Tarot de Marseille pattern int he eighteenth century. This conclusion is reinforced by an etymological consideration. In the terminology used in Germany, the discard was almost always referred to as the Scat, and this name was also used, by transference, for the talon; the exception is the game of Cego, in which the talon is called the Blinde and the discard the Legage. In Austria, too, the term Scat, sometimes in the form Scar, was originally used, although it was later dropped in favour of the French word Talon for the talon, with no separate noun being used for the discard. The words Scat and Scar are obviously corruptions of the Italian word scarto, meaning 'discard', and it therefore seems likely that the practice itself is of Italian origin. It might be objected that the borrowing of the term Scat may have occurred only after the reintroduction of the 78-card game from France into Italy in the eighteenth century; we know that Viennese Tarot players of the mid-eighteenth century borrowed a specific form of play from Lombardy, and, with it, an Italianate vocabulary, and that this Viennese/Lombard game spread into Germany and as far as the Netherlands. But this objection appears unsound: classic Tarot games, in which the word Scat was used, were being played in Germany before the spread of the Viennese/Lombard game.

A possible source for the practice may have been a card game called Scartino, of which we hear much from a brief period around 1500: there are over a dozen references to it between 1492 and 1517 (footnote 8). We have no idea how Scartino was played, although it appears to have demanded a special type of pack; for instance, Lodovico il Moro wrote in 1496 to Cardinal Ippolito d'Este complaining that the latter had not sent him the carte de scartino that he had promised, and there are other references to orders for packs of Scartino cards. The game seems to have originated from Ferrara: it was a favourite game both of Beatrice d'Este, wife of Lodovico il Moro, Duke of Milan, and of Isabella d'Este, wife of Francesco Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua. The name Scartino is presumably connected with the verb scartare, 'to discard', and games are often named after their most characteristic or novel feature. It is therefore a possibility that this was a trick-taking game in which a new practice was introduced, namely that the dealer took some extra cards and discarded a corresponding number. If so, it could be that it was from Scartino that this practice was taken over into Tarocco games, in which it had been previously unknown, and that Scartino, after its short-lived popularity, died out, having made a lasting contribution to card play. This, of course, is the merest guess: Scartino may not have been a trick-taking game at all, but, say, one in which the winner was the player who first contrived to get rid of all his cards after the fashion of a Stops game.

If Scartino did influence Tarocco, it is possible that the practice whereby the dealer took extra cards and made a corresponding discard was not an original feature of Tarot games, but was incorporated into them about the beginning of the sixteenth century, in time for it to be imported, as a feature of the game, when Tarot arrived in Switzerland.
In that case, the French games described in the Maison academique may represent a yet more ancient tradition; if our conjecture that they were derived from Piedmont is correct, Tarot playing in that region may go back to the very earliest times, the players remaining exceptionally conservative. But the hypothesis that the important feature of the discard was borrowed from Scartino should be treated with great caution, since it implies a continued mutual influence between the style of Tarocco play in all four great early centres, Ferrara, Milan, Bologna and Florence.

Footnote 8: For reference to Scartino, as played by Beatrice, Isabella, Ercole, Ippolito and Alfonso d'Este, Ludovico il Moro, and others, see: F. Malaguzzi-Valeri, La carte di Locovico il Moro, vol. 1, Milan, 1913, p. 575; A. Venturi, 'Relazioni artistiche tra le corti di Milano e Ferrara nel secolo XV', Archivio Storico Lombardo, anno XII (pp. 255-280), 1885, p. 254; A. Luzio and R. Renier, Mantova e Urbino[i], Turin and Rome, 1893, pp. 63-5, especially fn. 3, p. 63; the same two authors, 'Delle relazioni di Isabella d'Este Gonzaga con Lodivico e Beatrice Sforza', [i]Archivio Storico Lombardo, anno XVII (pp. 74-119, 346-99, 619-74), 1890, p. 368, fn. 1, and pp. 379-80; A Luzio I precettori d'Esabella d'Este,, p. 22; G. Bertoni, 'Tarocchi versificati' in Poesie, leggende, costumanze del medio evoModena, 1917, p. 219; and the Diario Ferrarese of 1499 in Muratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, vol. 24, p. 376. A letter of August 1493 quoted by Malaguzzi-Valeri and by Luzio and Renier appears to imply that Scartino was a three-handed game. The earliest reference is from 1492; one is from 1509, one from 1517, and all the rest from the 1490's. Several concern the obtaining or ordering of packs of Scartino cards (para de carte da scartino or para de scartini), which appear all to have come from Ferrara; what was special about these cards there is no way of telling. It is just conceivable that Scartino was itself a particular type of Tarot game, and that these were therefore Tarot packs of a special type; but, unless they were very special, it does not seem very likely that Lodovico Sforza should have been having to obtain Tarot packs from elsewhere. Most of the references are about games of Scartino being played.

All of this is conjectural, but perhaps not as much, for our purposes, as Dummett supposes. Our discussion on the "Bologna" thread has suggested that there was more interchange among cities than the different rules and card-orders would indicate, including, as documented on this thread, cities in France and elsewhere in Europe. The exchange between Lodovico and Ippolito is an example, as well as Alfonso's 1505 travels. Also, for our purposes the rule about discards does not, strictly speaking, have to have been introduced into tarot as a result of the game Scartino; it could have been the other way around, or done independently. What most matters for our purposes is that the name "Scartino" for a game with discards appeared around the same time as the name "triumphs" started being used for games with the regular pack (as Ross has pointed out in this thread, citing Dummett). So the cardmakers needed another name. They couldn't use a word based on "scartare," so they used its Arab equivalent instead, an Italianization of which had been around for almost two centuries. It would have helped if there had been a rule change as well, to justify the name change (and most likely there was), but the cardmakers could plausibly have done without it.

A somewhat comparable example is the introduction of the word "Skat" as the name of a Tarot-derived game in Germany during the early 19th century ( You take the foreign-derived word for the discard pile and use it to distinguish your game from similar ones.

Let me make the point again in different words. Most importantly, the dates and words match up. "Scartino" comes from "scartare," meaning "discard," the same as the Italian "tara" and the Arab "tahrah." And Scartino appeared just around the same time that (a) other "triumph" games started being played with regular cards, (b) a rule involving discards, such as became part of Tarot early on, appeared in some form in this other game; and (c) the deck for that game had already taken its name from the Italian "scartare." The cardmakers needed a name that separated the games with their deck from those with the others, and hopefully would not be co-opted in the way "triumphs" was. The Arab-derived word, partly made up for the occasion, partly suggesting the existing Italian word "tara," fit the bill. Since the decks continued to have very conservative designs on their suit-cards, as opposed to the German and French innovations, the Arabic association gave them a suitable air of antiquity, or at least one suggestive of that bastion of ancient texts and images, the medieval East.

One other point: the place where "Scartino" decks were made, Ferrara, is the same one whose ruler died just a few days before the first occurrence of the name-change is noted, as Huck observed. So place matches up as well as time and word.
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Re: The origin of the name "Tarot"?

Postby mmfilesi on 20 May 2010, 14:22

Interesting theory. Thanks Mike!
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Re: The origin of the name "Tarot"?

Postby Ross G. R. Caldwell on 21 May 2010, 08:31

I think the main argument against the derivation from tarah, tare etc. is the final vowel. The shift from a long or short "a" to a long "o" in "taro", consistently and universally, seems implausible.

It is also unnecessary given that the word "taroc" is known in Romance languages, with an original meaning in the range of "stump, block, trunk" etc. A derived meaning is "stupid, imbecile, idiot" etc. So the name "taroc" might refer to the Fool, or to the game as being "crazy cards" (that latter was my own ad hoc explanation, but I like referring to the Fool better).
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Re: The origin of the name "Tarot"?

Postby mikeh on 22 May 2010, 03:31

My sympathies are with the word for "trunk, stump, block". But I still want to explore all reasonalbe alternatives.

The problem with the word for "trunk," as i understand it, is that there is no verified usage in French, Italian, or Latin before around 1520. It is just reasonable that it existed. "Tara" already existed, as did the Arab word it comes from.

I grant your point that the shift from -a to -o or -oc is one that would not occcur naturally, I was supposing that it was a word made up for the occasion by the cardmakers, a word that would be resistant to co-optation by its very strangeness, a kind of brand name, except that it could change its pronunciation between languages. These days we don't even do that.The only example I can think of for sure at the moment is Haagendasz (the ice cream), with a funny circular mark above the first a; the word looks Scandinavian, and therefore, in the US, an exotic and probably high-quality dairy product In fact the name is wholly made up by its originator in New York, using letter combinations that exist in no European language (see Wikipedia). I once found it for sale in a small French town; the clerk was quite surprised when I said it was a term and food wholly concocted in the US. She thought it was European.
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Re: The origin of the name "Tarot"?

Postby mikeh on 22 May 2010, 06:54

To be fair, my example would better have not been Haagendasz, but something from the 15th or 16th century. I don't know whether there was a regular rule that game-makers followed when they created new names for games or aspects of them: for example, is there. for example, a tramsformation pattern by which "scartare" leads to "Scaratino" and to "scat"? I don't know enough about 15th century card games/terms and how they came about.
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Re: The origin of the name "Tarot"?

Postby Huck on 25 May 2010, 06:59

mikeh wrote:To be fair, my example would better have not been Haagendasz, but something from the 15th or 16th century. I don't know whether there was a regular rule that game-makers followed when they created new names for games or aspects of them: for example, is there. for example, a tramsformation pattern by which "scartare" leads to "Scaratino" and to "scat"? I don't know enough about 15th century card games/terms and how they came about.
Skat was developed by the members of the Brommesche Tarok-Gesellschaft[1] between 1810 and 1817 in Altenburg,[2] in what is now the Federal State of Thuringia, Germany, based on the three-player game of Tarock, also known as Tarot, and the four-player game of Schafkopf (the American equivalent being Sheepshead).[3] In the earliest known form of the game, the player in prior position was dealt twelve cards to the other players' ten each, made two discards, constituting the skat, and then announced a contract.[4] But the main innovation of this new game was then that of the Bidding process.[5]

The first text book on the rules of Skat was published in 1848 by a secondary school Professor called J. F. L. Hempel. Nevertheless, the rules continued to differ by region until the first attempt to set them in order was made by a congress of Skat players on Saturday, 7th of August 1886 in Altemburg, being the first official rules finally published in book form in 1888 by Theodor Thomas of Leipzig.[6] The current rules, followed by both the ISPA and the German Skat Federation, date from Jan. 1, 1999.[7]

The very word Skat is a Tarok term[8] deriving from the Italian word scarto, "scartare", which means to discard or reject,[9] and its derivative "scatola", a box, or a place for safe-keeping. The word scarto is one still used in other Italian card games to this day, and in some German works the word is found spelled "scat".

More info (German)

The creative circle in Altenburg, who brought up the Scat game, knew many prominent members:

Inventor: Herzoglich Sächsisch-Gotha-Altenburgische Hofadvokat Friedrich Ferdinand Hempel (later an author with many pseudonyms) ... _Ferdinand
Inventor of the scat bidding process: Ratskopist Carl Christian Adam Neefe
First Scat Rules book 1848: Gymnasialprofessor Johann Friedrich Ludwig Hempel
Dr. Johann Friedrich Pierer
Verleger Friedrich Arnold Brockhaus
Sächsischer Staatsminister Bernhard von Lindenau
Kanzler Hans Carl Leopold von der Gabelentz
Oberst Prendel ... 66-1852%29

Gabelentz used a notebook, in which he recorded bout 30 years, which games were played. The name "Scat" appeared first in 1813.
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Re: The origin of the name "Tarot"?

Postby mikeh on 26 May 2010, 19:52

Ross wrote,
It is also unnecessary given that the word "taroc" is known in Romance languages, with an original meaning in the range of "stump, block, trunk" etc.

I have been re-reading this thread, looking for your or Depaulis's documentation that the word "taroc" is known in Romance languages, meaning "stump, block, trunk" etc. Which Romance languages, with what documentation showing that it existed in that sense before 1500? If it did not exist in Latin, as Depaulis says, why do you think it existed in Italian or French?

Ross wrote
A derived meaning is "stupid, imbecile, idiot" etc.

I would feel a lot better about this theory if there actually were examples before 1500 of the word "taroc" being used in that sense. So I am on the lookout. I thought I was onto something, but then I ran into a dead end. I was reading an old translation of Herodotus's Histories Book III, looking at a story there about the Persian King Cambyses that might fit an Egyptianate reading of the Maison-Dieu card. In the English translation, the word "blockhead" turned up--an unusual choice, I thought. Cambyses is telling the Egyptian priests that they are blockheads for worshiping a flesh and blood calf. Here is the passage:
When the priests returned bringing Apis with them, Cambyses, like the harebrained person that he was, drew his dagger, and aimed at the belly of the animal, but missed his mark, and stabbed him in the thigh.Then he laughed, and said thus to the priests:- "Oh! blockheads, and think ye that gods become like this, of flesh and blood, and sensible to steel? A fit god indeed for Egyptians, such an one! But it shall cost you dear that you have made me your laughing-stock." When he had so spoken, he ordered those whose business it was to scourge the priests, and if they found any of the Egyptians keeping festival to put them to death. ( ... ng/54.html).

Another translation had "fool" in the same place. Another, one with Greek on the other side, had "ye wretched creatures" ( Here, incidentally, is the Greek:
29. [1] ὡς δὲ ἤγαγον τὸν Ἆπιν οἱ ἱρέες, ὁ Καμβύσης, οἷα ἐὼν ὑπομαργότερος, σπασάμενος τὸ ἐγχειρίδιον, θέλων τύψαι τὴν γαστέρα τοῦ Ἄπιος παίει τὸν μηρόν· γελάσας δὲ εἶπε πρὸς τοὺς ἱρέας [2]«ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοιοῦτοι θεοὶ γίνονται, ἔναιμοί τε καὶ σαρκώδεες καὶ ἐπαΐοντες σιδηρίων; ἄξιος μέν γε Αἰγυπτίων οὗτός γε ὁ θεός, ἀτάρ τοι ὑμεῖς γε οὐ χαίροντες γέλωτα ἐμὲ θήσεσθε.»ταῦτα εἴπας ἐνετείλατο τοῖσι ταῦτα πρήσσουσι τοὺς μὲν ἱρέας ἀπομαστιγῶσαι, Αἰγυπτίων δὲ τῶν ἄλλων τὸν ἂν λάβωσι ὁρτάζοντα κτείνειν.

I don't know Greek. But "κακαὶ κεφαλαί" seems to be what the translator turned into "blockheads."

I wondered when this work was translated into Italian, and what the translation there was. WorldCat had the earliest as 1533 Venice; the translation was by Matteo Boiardo, who of course died before 1500 (1494 to be exact) and played a role in tarot history. (He also translated Apuleius and Xenophon, according to Wikipedia. They say "adapted," i.e. loosely translated.) The passage in the 1533 book is on-line, near the bottom of Book III, p. 85L. ( ... &q&f=false)
Unfortunately I did not see anything resembling "taroc." Here is what I see, ignoring the little marks:
Fu condutto pe sacerdoti avanti a Cambyse ilquale come lo vide ridendo o pasi disse sono cosi futti gli dei che habbiano carne e sangue e cosi dicendo tratta la spada percosse Apis intro uno coscia e feci batterei sacerdoti con le scope e commesse a suoi che ciascuno de gli Egitti quale si trovasse festeggiare fusse ucisso.
Or in machine-English:
It was ahead condutto pe priests to Cambyse ilquale as he/she saw him/it laughing or pasi said I am so futti the gods that habbiano meat and blood and so saying treats the sword it struck Apis intro a thigh and I did I would beat priests with the brooms and orders to his that every de the Egittis which it was found to celebrate fusse ucisso.
The Italian is much shorter than the English or Greek. Perhaps "taroc' occurs in the manuscript version, if any survived. That is my dead end.

Perhaps I should check the Latin translation, published in Venice 1499. I haven't found it on-line.
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Re: The origin of the name "Tarot"?

Postby BOUGEAREL Alain on 06 Jun 2010, 14:29

Professor VITALI Andrea suggests :

"Thinking of an etymological roots concerning the game, I supposed that the term derives
from the ancient word tarere, that is to reset, to cancel (the opponents point)."
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Re: The origin of the name "Tarot"?

Postby mikeh on 06 Apr 2017, 08:16

On the origin of the words "taraux" and "tarocchi", Depaulis ventured an opinion in Le Tarot Révelé, 2013, pp. 42-43. For the benefit of those who have not availed themselves of this excellent little book, here is the French, followed by an English translation.Suggestions on how to improve the translation are welcome.
Un soupçon d'étymologie

L'étymologie du mot tarot a excité l'imagination de nombreux auteurs, tant italiens (les premiers, dès le XVI' siècle) que français. Une origine grecque a longtemps eu la faveur des humanistes et érudits (Andrea Alciato, Agnolo Monosino, L.A. Muratori, Pasqualino père et fils), qui y ont vu successivement hetarôkoi (sic pour hetairikoi « compagnonniques ») tarikhos « condiment épicé » (car le jeu est piquant...), tarros (forme de tarsos) « rangée des doigts », parce qu'on... range ses cartes les unes à côté des autres, etc. En I 704, le jésuite français Claude-François Ménestrier penchait lui aussi pour le grec, suggérant un dérivé de teirein « user, percer à force de frotter » (à cause des dos imprimés de petits motifs répétés, comme une grille). En 1759, l'évêque Giuseppe Vinci, pourtant protopape des Grecs de Messine, auteur d'un Etymologicum siculum (1759), suggérait de faire venir tarocco de l'hébreu. tora, « significante figura ». Avec la mode de l'égyptomanie à la fin du XVIIIe siècle, les explications par l'égyptien antique (qui restait, pourtant, inconnu!) deviennent à la mode. Antoine Court de Gébelin voit dans tarot «deux mots orientaux Tar et Rho, Rho qui signifie chemin royal » (Monde primitif VI, 1778), précisant même un peu plus tard (Monde primitif, VIII, 1781) que c'est «pur égyptien», une affirmation péremptoire qui fait sourire aujourd'hui.

Alors que le XIX siècle continue de chercher son chemin, le XXe se tourne vers l'arabe. Ici aussi les propositions fantaisistes côtoient des approches plus sérieuses. Oublions les rapprochements avec l'arabe torcha «jeter, lancer», ou taraq (racine trq) « frapper » (et, paraît-il aussi, « prophétiser »), pour suivre plutôt le fil de tarh; «déduction» (même verbe taraha mais au sens de «rejeter; déduire»), qui est à l'origine des mots tare (poids du contenant déduit du total, puis défaut), tarer (peser le contenant vide, former un défaut). taré (qui a un défaut) — et autant en italien: tara, tarare, taratura, etc. C'est à cette filiation que l'orientaliste allemand Karl Lokotsch a proposé le premier de rattacher l'italien tarocco — source du français tarot. Il a été suivi par le grand philologue suisse Walther von Wartburg, auteur d'un monumental dictionnaire étymologique du français. Celui-ci explique en effet que le jeu de tarot suppose une sorte de déduction, « parce que dans ce jeu le joueur doit, dans certaines circonstances, mettre de côté une carte » (Franzosisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch, XIX: Orientalia, 1967, p. 182-3, tarhe (ar.) 'abzug', et O. Bloch et W. von Wartburg, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue française, 5e édition, Paris, 1968, TAROT).

Or ce n'est pas dans certaines circonstances que l'on met «de côté » une carte, c'est en toutes circonstances. Un des premiers gestes du jeu consiste en effet à faire un écart que le donneur prend pour lui dans les formes anciennes, ou qui reste sur la table et sera remporté par le meilleur enchérisseur dans les règles modernes. Voilà qui justifierait cette étymologie, qui ne fait pas l'unanimité mais a pour elle de sérieux atouts.

Il est cependant un point qu'ignorent tous les linguistes, c'est que tarot/tarocco n'est pas le nom originel du tarot: pendant tout le XV" siècle, celui-ci est appelé trionfi (voir chapitre 2). Le nom du jeu a changé: après 1500, tarocchi (singulier tarocco) se substitue, en quelques décennies, au vocable trionfi. Les raisons de ce changement ne sont pas claires mais celui-ci pourrait être dû à une modification significative des règles ou de la conduite du jeu. Nous savons trop peu de la façon de jouer au XVe siècle, mais un des rares points assurés est qu'on jouait à quatre, ce qui laissait deux cartes en trop après la donne. Or; après 1500, on joue aussi à trois, mais avec un «écart» de trois cartes, que rien n'obligeait à faire (puisque 78 est divisible par trois). Cette innovation aurait entraîné un changement de nom pour le jeu, ainsi devenu tarocco. Une sorte de «déduction». Reconnaissons qu'aucun élément ancien ne vient appuyer cette théorie qui reste, pour le moment, la meilleure hypothèse ou la moins aventureuse.

A suspicion of etymology

The etymology of the word tarot has excited the imagination of many authors, both Italian (the first, as early as the sixteenth century) and French. A Greek origin has long been favored by humanists and scholars (Andrea Alciato, Agnolo Monosino, L. A. Muratori, Pasqualino father and son), who have successively seen hetarôkoi (sic for hetairikoi, "companions"), tarikhos "spicy condiment" ("for the game is piquant”), taros (form of tarsos ) “row of fingers” because we put our cards next to each other, and so on. In the year 1704, the French Jesuit Claude-François Ménestrier also leaned toward Greek, suggesting a derivative of teirein "use, pierce, by dint of rubbing" (because of the backs printed with small repetitive patterns, like a grid). In 1759, Bishop Giuseppe Vinci, who was a protopope [?] of the Greeks of Messina, the author of an Etymologicum siculum [1759], suggested that tarocco should come from the Hebrew tora, "significant figure". With the Egyptian fashion at the end of the eighteenth century, explanations by the ancient Egyptian (which remained, however, unknown!) become fashionable. Antoine Court de Gébelin sees in tarot "two Eastern words Tar and Rho, Rho meaning royal road" (Monde Primitif VI, 1778), even specifying a little later Monde Primitif, VIII, 1781) that it is "pure Egyptian", a peremptory affirmation that makes us smile today.

As the 19th century continues to seek its way, the 20th century turns to Arabic. Here, too, fanciful propositions coincide with more serious approaches. Forget about reconciliations with Arabic torcha "to throw," or taraq (root trq, also "to prophesy"), rather to follow the thread of tarh, "deduction" {the same verb taraha but in the sense of "reject, deduct"), which is at the origin of the words tare (weight of the container deducted from the total, then defect), tarer (weigh the empty container, form a defect). taré (which has a defect) - and as much in Italian: tara, tarare, taratura, etc. It is to this lineage that the German Orientalist Karl Lokotsch proposed first to link the Italian tarocco - source of the French tarot . He was followed by the great Swiss philologist Walther von Wartburg, author of a monumental etymological dictionary of French. The latter explains that the game of tarot assumes a kind of deduction, “because in this game the player must, under certain circumstances, set aside a card" (Franzosisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch, XIX Orientalia, 1967, p 182-3, tarhe (ar.) 'Abzug', and O. Bloch and W. von Wartburg, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue française, 5th edition, Paris, 1968, TAROT).

But it is not in certain circumstances that a card is set aside, it is in all circumstances. One of the first gestures of the game is to make a discard that the dealer takes for himself in the old forms, or that remains on the table and will be won by the highest bidder in modern rules. This would justify this etymology, which is not unanimous but has for it serious advantages.

There is, however, one point which all the linguists are ignorant of: that tarot/tarocco is not the original name for the tarot: during the whole of the fifteenth century it is called trionfi (see chaper 2). The name of the game changed: after 1500 tarocchi (singular tarocco ) replaces, in a few decades, the word trionfi. The reasons for this change are unclear, but this could be due to a significant change in the rules or conduct of the game. We know too little about how it was played in the fifteenth century, but one of the rare points is that it is played by four, which left two extra cards after the deal; but after 1500 it is played by three, but with a "discard" of three cards. (Since 78 is divisible by three). This innovation would have resulted in a change of name for the game, thus become tarocco A kind of "deduction." We recognize that no old element has appeared to supports this theory, but it remains, for the moment, the best or least adventurous hypothesis.

I am not sure what Depaulis's reasoning is for the rule-change at just that time. Dummett suggested it as a conjecture, but not as a fact, that it happened at just the right time and place, Ferrara beginning of the 16th century). I posted the passage at the top of this page (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=502&start=20#p7182). The discard rule would have started in the game of Scartino, a game documented in relation to Beatrice d'Este in 1496; the term means "discard". If the particular rule about the dealer discarding existed in Scartino and passed over to the game of triumphs, then, yes, the dates for Scartino's popularity (documented until 1517) suggest a name change such as Depaulis suggests, since these are the "rejected" cards. I think Huck suggested that scartino might have been brought from Naples by a d'Este girl (Beatrice) in temporary residence there.

The "-cco" would have been part of the word in Italian, which unlike French pronounces final consonants, because in Arabic the word "tarah", ends in a sound like the German "ch" in "Bach".

What Depaulis is saying (in 2013) is strikingly like what I said myself (in 2010, top of this page), as pure hypothesis, applying Dummett to the problem.

There is also the work of Andrea Vitali on the origin of the word in his essays (different at least on its face from the quote given by Alain): ... 20&lng=ENG and the articles by him linked to at the beginning of that article, about the "therocco" wind, the follower of Bacchus allegedly named "Tharochus", and the verb "taroccare".

What links the examples found by Vitali together with Depaulis, it seems to me, is the Greek Ταραχος, i.e. "Tarachos", meaning "perturbatio", according to the 1497 Aldus Greek-Latin Lexicon (relevant page furnished me by the Ransom Center at the University of Texas, ... achdet.jpg), which in turn means in English "agitation, confusion". It went into Arabic with the meaning of "deduction, rejection", to which the Romance languages added "defect", or "defective". The original "tarachos" also appeared in Turkish as "taraka", tumult. In Italian the word is at the root of the "therocco" wind, later "sirocco", as Andrea shows, the wind that makes people crazy. Independently of the game, "taroccare" in Italian does, or did, mean "to shout, or become angry" etc., as is evident from an old Italian dictionary quoted by Andrea. There may also be a connection to "Tharopes", in Pogio's translation of Diodorus Siculus, said there to be the name of the man to whom Bacchus gave his noisy ecstatic rites. See my page at As to whether "tarocco" is derived from the Arabic "tararkh" or the Greek "tarachos" and the Italian "therocco", it seems to me rather adventurous to suppose that the "occo" at the end of the Italian comes from an Arabic pronunciation of "tarah"; perhaps there is another explanation.

Ross's (and Steve's) idea that the term comes from "taroc" meaning "stump, block, trunk of a tree" seems the least "adventurous"; the only assumption is that the word was in use in Piedmont of the 1490s; since it is documented in 1520, presumably it was. It would be of interest to know the derivation of that word. It involves neither the addition of a hard c at the end nor a change from "a" to "o" before that.
Location: Oregon USA
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