Man ThinkingThe oldest historical documentation of the word “Tarot” dates back to 1516 – from the “Registry of Wardrobes” of the Court of Ferrara – where we find a note of payment to Gian Francesco della Mirandola for a few Tarot decks (“dua para de tarocchi” in Old Italian).

The true origins of the term “Tarot” remains a mystery still today, in that no documents have been found that explain the cryptic etymology of this word.

In spite of a lack of evidence, there are however various theories, mostly from esoteric and occultist sources, on the origins of the word “Tarot”.

Main Theories

  • “Tarot” derives from the ancient Egyptian word “Tar”, which means “path”, and “Ros”, which means “king”, “royal”. The term “Tarot” therefore indicates “the Royal path of life” (“le chemin Royal de la vie”).

Antoine Court de Gébelin
“Le Monde Primitif”, Volume VIII, 1781

  • “Tarot” derives from the Egyptian “A”, which means “doctrine”, and “Rosh”, which is Mercury. “Tarot” therefore means “Doctrine of Mercury”, which is none other than Hermes Trismegistus, or Thoth.

M. le C. de M.
(Louis-Raphael-Lucrèce de Fayolle Comte de Mellet)

  • “Tarot” descends from “Torah”, Hebrew law.

Jean Alexandre Vaillant
“Les Romes: histoire vraie des vrais Bohémiens”, 1857