in cards, "trump when unable to follow suit," 1760, from the card game ruff (see ruff (n.2)). Related: Ruffed; ruffing.
1824, the name of a favorite Spanish and Spanish-American card game played with a deck of 40 cards, from Spanish monte "mountain," from Latin montem (nominative mons) "mountain" (from PIE root *men- (2) "to project"). So called from the heap of cards left after dealing. Picked up by the Americans in Texas and in the Mexican War, it was a favorite in California during the gold rush years. The three-card confidence-game form (first attested 1877) is of Mexican origin.
early 15c., "a playing card," from Old French carte (14c.), from Medieval Latin carta/charta "a card, paper; a writing, a charter," from Latin charta "leaf of paper, a writing, tablet," from Greek khartēs "layer of papyrus," which is probably from Egyptian. Form influenced by Italian cognate carta "paper, leaf of paper." Compare chart (n.). The shift in English from -t to -d is unexplained.
Sense of "playing cards" also is oldest in French. Sense in English extended by 1590s to similar small, flat, stiff pieces of paper. As "small piece of cardboard upon which is written or printed the name, address, etc. of the person presenting it" is from 1795, visiting-cards for social calls, business-cards announcing one's profession. Meaning "printed ornamental greetings for special occasions" is from 1862.
Application to clever or original persons (1836, originally with an adjective, as in smart card) is from the playing-card sense, via expressions such as sure card "an expedient certain to attain an object" (c. 1560).
Card-sharper "professional cheat at cards" is from 1859. House of cards in the figurative sense "any insecure or flimsy scheme" is from 1640s, first attested in Milton, from children's play. To (figuratively) have a card up (one's) sleeve is from 1898. To play the _______ card (for political advantage) is from 1886, originally the Orange card, meaning "appeal to Northern Irish Protestant sentiment."
Cards are first mentioned in Spain in 1371, described in detail in Switzerland in 1377, and by 1380 reliably reported from places as far apart as Florence, Basle, Regensburg, Brabant, Paris, and Barcelona. References are also claimed for earlier dates, but these are relatively sparse and do not withstand scrutiny. [David Parlett, "A History of Card Games"]
card game for two or four, 1620s, probably from crib "set of cards thrown from each player's hand" (which is of uncertain origin), though this word is later than the game name.
1620s, "shifty person," agent noun from shuffle (v.). In later use "one who or that which shuffles," in any sense; especially "one who shuffles cards" (by 1894).