• tarot •
tæ-row • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A deck of 78 cards used to play several games such as Italian tarocchi. The deck consists of four suits of 14 cards each, plus a Major Arcana section of 22. 2. A game played with these. 3. A form of cartomancy by which the cartomancer predicts the future of their client by "reading" the cards.
Notes: Tarot is a word whose popularity is on the rise today. Amazon is selling more than 40 different decks of tarot cards produced by different manufacturers. Websites abound by soothsayers willing to read them for you. A horoscope made by a tarot reading is known widely as a tarotscope. Otherwise, it is a lexical orphan, closed with a French silent T.
In Play: Why the sudden popularity of this paranormal activity? "Astrid wanted to know when she could read my future in the tarot cards; she assured me that she had the gift." Apparently, the cards can read the mind and soul of whomever the cartomancer is reading them to: "The tarot cards tell me that I am a lazy slacker who will never amount to anything."
Word History: Today's Good Word was siphoned off from French tarot, which French borrowed and modified from Italian tarocco, a word that has been used by English writers. In German it turns up as tarock. How this word emerged in Italian in the 16th century is a mystery. Originally, the cards were used in a game called taroc, so the word tarocchi (plural of tarocco), makes sense. Their occult use appeared in the 18th century. Speculation has roamed over a wide array of sources: Chinese tao and Arabic tariqa both meaning "the way", anagrams of Latin rota "wheel" and Egyptian Ator, the name of a goddess, and Hebrew Torah, the name of the first five books of the Old Testament. However, no evidence for any of these has been found. (Now let us thank Susan Maynard, now a regular contributor, for suggesting today's very mysterious Good Word.)
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