1590s, from French tarot (16c.), from Old Italian tarocchi (singular tarocco), a word of unknown origin, perhaps from Arabic taraha "he rejected, put aside." Originally an everyday game deck in much of Europe (though not in Britain), their occult and fortune-telling use seems to date from late 18c. and became popular in England 20c. Tarot games seem to have originated among aristocrats in northern Italy in early 15c. By early 16c. tarocchi had emerged in Italian as the name of the special cards, and by extension the whole pack; whence the French word, German Tarock, etc. The tarots are thus, strictly speaking, the 22 figured cards added to the 56-card suits pack.
updated on February 14, 2020