Re: That Word Again...Tarot

SteveM wrote: Lack of etymology suggests to me that its roots are not to be found in latin or greek or arabic; as I have long maintained, I think it came to mean 'fool', blockhead figuratively from a word meaning tree/stump/log probably that survived in certain dialects such as Milanese.
I am not sure it is correct to call Milanese a dialect of Italian or more a cousin of Italian -- it actually has more in common with Occitan and Catalan*:
Milanese is to be classified as a Gallo-Romance language, therefore coordinate with French, Piedmontese, Ligurian, Rumantsch, Ladin and, most of all, with Occitan and Catalan.
end quote from:

Carlo Porta, c.1800, translated a portion of Dante's Inferno into Milanese: here are a few verses for example, to show the big differences between the two, (and also because it refers to the 13th tarot in Milanese) :

Dante's original:

Di quella umile Italia fia salute
per cui morì la vergine Cammilla,
Eurialo e Turno e Niso di ferute.

Questi la caccerà per ogne villa,
fin che l’avrà rimessa ne lo ’nferno,

Ond’io per lo tuo me’ penso e discerno
che tu mi segui, e io sarò tua guida,
là onde ’nvidia prima dipartilla.

Porta's Milanese translation:

Costuu de Italia el salvarà quell tocch
ch’ha faa andà Nis e Eurial in partendel
a fà on salud al tredes de tarocch,
tant quant Turno e Camilla per defendel;
e el farà tant sto can che a pocch a pocch
el casciarà el bestion, bojand, mordendel,
in l’inferno de dove el dè el sghimbiett
quand l’invidia la gh’ha smollaa el collett.

'Tredes de tarocch' simply means the 13th tarot, that is as a figurative phrase for death; in reference here to 'the virgin Camilla, Nis, Eurial and Turno who died from their wounds' (per cui morì la vergine Cammilla et al). ... 22&f=false

So far I have found the phrase is used by poets and in opera librettos from c.mid-18th century on, among writers of 'dialetto Milanese'.

Many milanese-italian dictionaries simply translate Tarocch as Minchiate (as in the card-game, fool, foolish, stupid, penis, nonsense, a trifle), (tarocco - game, but also as in wrath, anger, impatience, temper?), Germini (gemini - the highest of the astrological trumps in minchiate?), which reminds me of the previously discussed Farsa Satyra Morale by Venturino Venturini of Pesaro (c.1510/21):

Mancava anchora el gioco de tarocchi,
Chesser mi par tuo pasto: e un altro anchora
Minchion, sminchiata voise dir da sciocchi.

There is still the game of tarot,
that seems to me your meal*: and still yet another
Minchion, sminchiata or, as you may say, of fools.

(The games of tarocchi or minchion or sminchiate are, in other words, the games 'of fools' or 'of the fool'.)

*lit: that seems to me your meal, i.e., that I think would be to your liking, or suitable for you, or in english idiom - your cup of tea.

*Catalan - one of the earliest card names we have, naip - is recorded in Catalan* (by a poet) - and it has been argued that the word does not derive from arabic as many (most) suggest, but is in fact a Catalan word cognate with the Old French naif, that is 'silly, foolish'.
*From a dictionary of Catalan rhyming words by poet Jaume March:
( — ^P)'- Macip, felip, garip, xorip, naip, estip, dip.

Online here: ... c_djvu.txt

For more info: ... ip&f=false
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: That Word Again...Tarot

What if... Tarocco came from China? It sounds like Sirocco, the dust-devil wind from the opposite direction, Africa. The word was coined long after the deck was being used, simply to distinguish it from derivative, de-mystified 'Triomfi' which gave birth to the modern deck of ordinary playing cards.

Mah Jonng was developed in China many centuries ago, where it was known as the 'Game of the Four Winds'. It had three roles: as a 'recreational game', as the major method of 'gambling' (often for high stakes), and as a method of 'divination' or 'fortune-telling'.

Each round was interpreted as a 'story' about the heavens, its protecting 'dragons', the 'guardians of the winds', and the individual players connected with each 'wind' in turn.

It seems that Marco Polo, a native of Venice, may have seen the game played. Some of his entourage travelling with him certainly did. Not long after returning to Venice, these forerunners of the card game of 'Tarocco' appeared, plausibly related to 'Mah Jonng', their cards identified with the pagan and hermetic archetypes popular in late medieval and renaissance Europe, such as the 'Sun', 'Moon', 'World', 'Star of Hope', 'Lovers', 'Hierophant' [Pope], 'Empress', 'Emperor' etc., also 'Death', the 'Hanged Man' [Limbo], etc.

Later, the number of cards was reduced and the 'modern deck' of cards replaced it, for specifically recreational purposes. Suits were changed from the older 'pentacles', 'staves', 'cups' and 'stars' to the modern ones of 'hearts', 'spades', 'clubs' and 'diamonds'.

The older deck, with the 'archetypes' further developed, was used specifically for fortune-telling, particularly by the Gypsies in places such as Florence, where it became known as the 'Tarot'.

Re: That Word Again...Tarot

If "tarocco" is related to "sirocco", there is a more plausible explanation than an appeal to a Chinese game that may or may not have existed at the time of Marco Polo. First, the game wasn't called "tarocco" early on, but "trionfi" (1440 Florence, 1442 Ferrara, 1450 Florence, etc.); "tarocco" doesn't occur until 1505 as the name of the game, in Ferrara.

However the name change may in fact been to a word deriving from the same root at "sirocco". "Sirocco" is related to "theroco", which in turn, I think, is connected with "taraxia", meaning agitation in Latin, or "tarachos", meaning the same in Greek. "Theroco" is instanced in Andrea Vitali's "Theroco Wind", See also my, section A2. This builds on (slightly) other research by Vitali and others and also expressed often on THF. I have given the necessary links in my piece (A2). You will also find that playing cards minus the special cards associated with the tarot are documented in Europe significantly earlier than the tarot is, notably in 1377 Florence and 1379 elsewhere. Franco Pratesi is a good name to search for on THF on this issue.

Re: That Word Again...Tarot

It's interesting that among the German and Italian language folk, tarok/tarocchi means, besides the game itself, "trump"; whereas in France (at least in our 17th and 18th century references) mean "five-point cards" and trumps continue to be called "triomphes", or later "atous". If a game is named for it's defining feature, this makes sense, since not only do the five-point cards have the highest value, but they also impart a bonus or penalty when they win or lose a trick.

Thierry Depaulis, I think, advocates that the name "Tarot" came from France to Italy, rather than vice versa: It could be that the bonus/penalty around the "tarots" was what led that? The same feature exists, slightly altered, in Minchiate and at least one form of the Sicilian game.

Re: That Word Again...Tarot

Just read the older thread, and saw that an intermediate Savoyard word "tarocs" could have accounted for a french tarot rather than taroque still granting an Italian priority. So scratch that.

But it does still seem important to me that le Monde, and the Kings are "tarots" also - I feel like the "blockhead-fool" meaning doesn't square well with how the word is used in the game. stump-as-"end" might work better - the modern french calls them "bouts" - but that's 20th century.

Re: That Word Again...Tarot

Mike, I think that despite all of our best efforts over a very long time, we still have not come to a consensus about the word.

Maybe, there is one point of agreement - it was Italian first, and came to France via Savoy. Probably someone will disagree about the second part. Probably, in fact, someone will dispute the first part. But I would think that most people conversant with the facts of the matter would agree that it began as an Italian word, or at least in Italy.

As for the "original" meaning, and why they renamed the game that particular word, I don't think many of us have a clear idea what we ourselves think about it, let alone agree with anyone else.

Re: That Word Again...Tarot

MikeTheAltarBoy wrote: 14 Sep 2018, 15:08 Just read the older thread, and saw that an intermediate Savoyard word "tarocs" could have accounted for a french tarot rather than taroque still granting an Italian priority. So scratch that.

But it does still seem important to me that le Monde, and the Kings are "tarots" also - I feel like the "blockhead-fool" meaning doesn't square well with how the word is used in the game. stump-as-"end" might work better - the modern french calls them "bouts" - but that's 20th century.
The game was indeed named, initially, for its defining feature, namely triumphs. If later the game was named for its highest point-getting cards, it would have been called "Kings and the World" or some such thing. I'd think that the name "tarots" for the highest cards comes from the name of the game rather than the other way around, even if that is atypical in card games.

Depaulis's hypothesis depends on the word's being named for a specific practice, that in the four-person game there is a "discard" of 2 cards, which the dealer takes for himself. This "discard" corresponds to the Arabic word "tarhe", a derivation favored by certain linguists whom he cites, from 1967 and 1968. See my transcript of Depaulis's French of 2013, with English translation, at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=502&p=19407&hilit=discard#p19407. The thesis is supported by the derivation of the French "tara", meaning "defective" (like a dull-witted person), derived from "tarhah" and going into Italian as "tara". See my post at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1074&p=16516&hilit ... ire#p16516

One problem with the thesis might be, as Ross once suggested (viewtopic.php?p=7186#p7186), that it has to account for the shift from the "a" sound to the long "o". This problem seems not to bother Depaulis. Another problem, it seems to me, is that the "h" in Arabic seems to have been pronounced close to the German "ch" (see ... ic-Letters), with similar hard and soft versions. After "a" or "o" I would expect it to be hard. So while for some later words in various versions of French and Italian the "h" might have been dropped, it might also, in other words, with a different meaning, have turned into "cc", i.e. a hard c, in Italian. So even if the derivation, as the linguists say, is correct, it doesn't clear up whether it was Italian tarocco or French tarot first.