Glossary of patience terms

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There are a number of common features in many Patience games (or solitaire games as they are called in the US) such as "building down" and the "foundations" and "tableau". These are used to simplify the descriptions of new games.

Deal terms[edit]

Cards are built on one another, starting from the bottom up. Each card's value and suit is face up, and should be able to be viewed by the player. However, only the top card is available for play. It is most commonly found in addition games.


The layout describes the piles of cards in use during the game, and the restrictions on these piles. There are a number of different kinds of piles which have become standard across a number of games.

Term Alternative terms Description
Squared When the cards in the pile are directly on top of one another
Fanned When the cards in the pile are overlapping, but part of each card can be seen. They can be fanned left, right, up, or down. Fanned down is the most common option; this means that the card on the top of the pile is closest to the player.
Stock Talon See Stock. Typically squared and face-down. These can be turned over into the waste, usually one-by-one, but sometimes in groups of two or three (depending on individual game rules), whenever the player wishes.
Waste Wastepile, waste heap, discard pile The area where the cards from the stock go when they are brought into play. The following are typically true:
  • The pile is squared and face-up.
  • Only cards from the stock can be played to the waste (but not in games like "golf")
  • Only the topmost card is available for play.
Foundation Typically squared and face-up. Most solitaire games feature foundation piles (often referred to as foundations) built on foundation cards (usually the Ace). The aim of these games is to clear the tableaux and move all the cards to the foundation piles. Foundation piles are typically built from the foundation card by suit until the card at the other end of the sequence is reached (if the foundation card is the Ace, this is the King); however, some games have different rules. Usually only thirteen cards are allowed in each foundation. The number of foundations can usually be found by multiplying the number of suits by the number of decks involved in the game.
Tableau Layout (in Card Games for One; a different use than in this article);

Typically fanned downwards. The tableau consists of a number of piles of cards. Cards can be moved from one pile or area to another, under varying rules. Some allow stacks of cards that match the building requirements to be moved, others only allow the top card to be moved, yet others allow any stack to be moved.
Reserve A group or pile of cards where building is usually not permitted. These cards are dealt out at the beginning, and used, commonly one card at a time, during the play.
Cells Common to "freeCell" type games, cells allow only one card to be placed in them. Any card can be put in a cell. These act as maneuvering space.


Building involves cards being placed in their final location, in stacks or cascades according to various rules. The building terms are usually combined in game explanations. For instance, a game may describe "building up in sequence by suit". The terms in this table are generally preceded by the word "building" (as in the previous sentence). Packing means ordering cards in sequence in an intermediate location, usually the tableau, until they can be placed on the foundations.

Term Alternative terms Description
By suit Cards can only be placed on a card of the same suit
By suit sequence By suit in numerical order, with the 10 followed by Jack - Queen - King in that order, and with the Ace either the first or the last card in the sequence.
By color Cards can only be placed on a card of the same color.
By alternating colors Cards can only be placed on a card of the opposite color.
By any other suit By any suit but the same Cards cannot be placed on a card of the same suit, but can be placed on cards not of the same suit.
In multiples Cards can only be placed on the card two, three, or four; higher or lower. In multiples, the Jack is an eleven, a Queen is a twelve, and a King is a thirteen. Wrapping is often applied, i.e. if building up by two is required, then the sequence 10 - Queen - Ace - 3 - 5 is permitted.
Wrapping Building around the corner Using modular arithmetic to build the sequence, e.g.


The terms above are useful for describing the rules of the game. The terms in this section tend to be more useful for describing things happening during the state of play. Most are derived from Lady Cadogan (see below).

Term Alternate terms Description
Available cards Those that are not "blocked" by other cards, i.e., not forbidden by the particular rules of each game, to be used.
Released cards Those that, by the removal of the cards that blocked them, have now become available.
Suitable cards Those whose value and suit fit them to be played or placed in the tableaux.
Base card The first card which must go on a pile; typically this refers to aces on foundation piles
Topmost card Bottom card[2] The card in a pile which doesn't have any cards on top of it; this is true even if the cards are fanned down
Redeal When the stock pile is empty, to take the waste, turn it over, and place it in the stock
Marriage The placing a card of the same suit on the next one above or below it in value. Any number may be placed on each other in this way.
Lane Space An empty space in the tableau, which has been formed by the removal of an entire row of cards.

Additional terms[edit]

The following terms are used by Peter Arnold in his book Card Games for One (ISBN 0-600-60727-5) and may be terms exclusively used in British English in explaining solitaire games:

a special move that may be illegal to the rules of the game otherwise
cards set aside for later in the game
Worrying back
putting a card already built on a foundation back into the tableau

The following terms are from the book Illustrated Games of Patience by Lady Cadogan (1874).[3] This defines the long-forgotten term, talon (= "stock"), which is still in use in Germany and has been re-introduced by English authors like Parlett.[4] Also note the term Marriage of cards.

Cards which, being unsuitable at the moment, are laid aside in one or more packets till they can come into use. Note: In German and modern English parlance, talon refers to the stock-pile not the waste-pile as this might suggest here.
To play cards
The placing of them on the foundations in contradistinction to placing them elsewhere. Note that this is different from the definition of play in the Glossary of card game terms.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Pan Book of Card Games - Hubert Philips ISBN 0-330-20175-1
  2. ^ Keller, Michael. "A Glossary of Solitaire". Solitaire Laboratory. Retrieved 11 July 2017. the uncovered card is called the bottom of the column and the most deeply buried card is called the top
  3. ^ Cadogan, Lady Adelaide (1874). Illustrated Games of Patience. London, United Kingdom: Sampson, Low, Marston, Low, and Searle. p. vii. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
  4. ^ Parlett 2008, p. 648.

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