MAY 2024

Learn Solitaire Terminology and Become Familiar with the Game Lingo!

Learn Solitaire terminology and become familiar with the game lingo

Guide to Important Glossary Appendix When Playing Most Solitaire Games

Written by: Elizabeth Miller | Last updated: 16 November 2023 | Fact check by : Robert Moore

Elizabeth's mastery of Solitaire, cultivated through three decades of play and rigorous study, has positioned her as an innovative and highly respected expert, trusted by enthusiasts and novices alike. About Elizabeth Miller

The Solitaire game has become a beloved pastime across generations and is one of the most popular card games in the entire world. Its various versions, such as Klondike, Spider, Cube, and more, have won hearts worldwide.

Thanks to the tech giant Microsoft for broadening Solitaire's fan base by integrating it into their OS and releasing Microsoft Solitaire. Regardless of cultural background, age, or gender, Solitaire games resonate with everyone due to the card game's unique gameplay.

This particular game which was initially named Klondike Solitaire is also categorized as a logical memory game. It has considerably influenced global pop culture, marked by appearances in literature, movies, and music.

Although Solitaire is easy to grasp and play, understanding its nitty-gritty aspects undeniably enhances your gaming experience.

One of the unique traits of playing the card game is that this game type, also known as a patience game, actually benefits your logical thinking. Visit our blog to learn more about how and if Solitaire is good for your brain.

Solitaire Lingo and Basic Terms

Terms and phrases used in patience games based on the Solitaire rules

Terms and phrases used in patience games based on the Solitaire rules

A specific set of common features are consistently present in Solitaire games, simplifying the learning curve when approaching new versions.

To thoroughly enjoy Solitaire, understanding its specific jargon is vital. Once you grasp the solitaire lingo, navigating the game's multiple variants becomes easier.

Let's examine some important terms to help you become a Solitaire expert:


The term refers to the cards when playing Solitaire which can be legally shifted from one stack to another. You could move these exposed cards, provided there is a suitable location to move them. In most games, you will get to move only the topmost card of a tableau pile in the beginning.

Array in Solitaire Card Games

This term is synonymous with the seven columns of cards distributed at the Solitaire game's commencement, also called the tableau. This is also what most people refer to as the manoeuvring space, where most of the gameplay is focused on. Many other games use this principle, so the term is collectively called array or tableau.

Ace Piles

These are four stacks of cards, initiated with the Aces at the bottom as they become available. Cards of identical suits are played to them in sequence, culminating with Kings at the top. Victory is yours if all 52 cards get played to their corresponding piles, also known as foundation stacks.

Braiding in Solitaire Games

Also known as laddering, this technique involves restricting a suit to a single column as much as possible. For instance, spades are placed in one column and clubs in another - a similar approach is adopted for the two red suits.

Blocked Expression When Playing Cards

The state of being unable to make further moves in the game is referred to as being blocked or stuck.

Bottom Card

The bottom card is the lowest ranking, face-up card in a column. Understanding the 'Only The Top Card' terminology will help you better understand the usage here.


This term represents an ordered sequence of cards in a pile.


Building is the process of adding a card to a pile. Building up means playing all the cards in ascending order, and building down means playing the cards in descending order. Building can follow suit, colour, or alternate colours, but some games build up and down irrespective of suit or colour.


A column refers to a vertical pile of overlapping cards.

Custom Rules

When setting up a game on Solitairea, you can choose from different rules and difficulty settings such as Solitaire Turn Three, Undo Off, Limited Playthroughs, Fast, Relaxed, Easy, Expert, and Training mode.

Deck (Solitaire Glossary)

In Klondike Solitaire, a deck signifies a complete set of 52 traditionally French-suited playing cards, with each of the 13 ranks occurring once per suit.

Double (Custom Rule)

This rule allows you to play with twice the cards - two sets of 52 cards.

Easthaven (Custom Rule)

This rule changes the game to the Easthaven variant, which can be considered a relative of Klondike Solitaire. The alterations pertain to the game's setup and the tableau, stock, and ace pile rules.

Easy (Custom Rule)

Enabling this Solitaire rule allows you to place any remaining cards on empty tableau piles. In classic Klondike Solitaire games, only the Kings can be placed there.

Fast (Custom Rule)

This rule reduces the standard time for solving the game in a single round. Many games on The App and Play Store use this setting to reduce playtime and serve more advertisements between rounds.

Foundation (Piles)

This part of the table houses the four foundation piles. They start empty, with the game's goal to build up each foundation pile in suit from Ace to King.

FreeCell (Napoleon)

A variation of Solitaire that, unlike many Solitaire games, is always winnable if played perfectly. This fun and relaxing game has been named after the four free cells in the top-left corner of the game screen that can be used to temporarily store cards. Note that you can place only one card in a free cell.


A hand includes a series of cards dealt from the stock to the waste. The number of cards in hand can be one, two, or three, depending on the rules being followed.

Hidden Card

A hidden card (in a tableau) is one where only the back of the card can be seen, and you can reveal it by moving the cards above it.


Sequence means an arrangement of cards in a particular order. An in-suit sequence refers to a sequence of cards in which all playing cards are of the same suit. There is another type of sequence where you have to arrange cards in a sequence by alternating between colours. Other types of sequences you should know about are a descending sequence and an ascending sequence, which are exact opposites of each other.


See "Braiding."


The initial arrangement of the cards on the tableau.

Limited Playthroughs (Custom Rule)

This rule allows you to go through the deck a limited number of times.


This is a situation where a player needs to remember to claim their right to add a card to a foundation pile or tableau.


Synonymous with a deck of cards.

Relaxed (Custom Rule)

This custom rule lets you go through the deck as often as possible.


It is a location on the tableau where certain cards are set aside and can be played directly onto the foundations.

Spider Solitaire

A variant of Solitaire that involves two decks of cards rather than one. The game is named for its eight foundation piles that must be filled, representing a spider's eight legs. Spider solitaire is very popular.

Stock or Stock Pile

It is the pile of face-down cards from which new cards can be drawn into play, and it only contains those cards that aren't dealt to the tableau. In short, the cards left after creating the tableau are kept in the stock. Usually, you can only draw one card at a time from the stock. At the start of a game, this is where new cards are dealt from.


A suit includes all thirteen cards that share the same symbol, and there are four suits, namely diamonds, clubs, hearts, and spades.


This is one of the most important solitaire terms and describes the central area of play where most of the action happens. In many versions of Solitaire, seven piles of cards forming the tableau are seen. In classic Solitaire, a pile of cards has one face-up card, and the other cards are kept face-down.

Training Mode (Custom Rule)

This rule enables you to understand the game better by offering helpful hints during gameplay.

Undo Off (Custom Rule)

This rule does not allow you to take back any moves once made.

Waste or Discard Pile

It is a pile of face-up cards where only cards from the stock are placed and are available for play. It is also known as a waste heap or rubbish heap. Only the card at the top of the waste pile can be moved to the tableau.

Win Rate

When the number of games won divided by the total number of games played is calculated, you get the win rate. Simply put, it indicates what percentage of your card games you have won till now.


A popular variant of Solitaire, like Klondike, The Yukon card games, involves dealing the entire deck at the beginning of the game but has less strict rules about moving groups of cards in the tableau.

Terminology used in most patience games

Terminology used in most patience games

8 Key Points About the Important Solitaire Terms

Here is a breakdown of 8 crucial critical points from this article about Solitaire terminology and how it is used in your games:

  1. Layout, Array, or Tableau: When you deal with the cards initially, they form a layout or tableau pattern. This could consist of rows, columns, or piles of cards. Although you may see all the cards in a pile, you can typically only access the uppermost card, an uncovered card that is dealt face up. The rules of the specific game dictate the circumstances under which you can move tableaus.

  2. Building: The act of placing one card on top of another in a legal move is known as building. What constitutes a legal move depends on the particular Solitaire's rules.

  3. Foundations: In games, these base card areas on the layout are called foundations to build up cards. Generally, once you've placed cards on a foundation pile, you can't move them again. The goal of Solitaire is to build the foundation. The tableau serves as a temporary place for cards arranged for the foundation.

  4. Spaces or Gaps: When you move an entire row or column, you create a space or gap. Often, you can move any card(s) you like into these spaces.

  5. Stock: The unused cards from the initial layout are referred to as the stock. You go through the stock to advance in Solitaire.

  6. Waste-Pile: When working through the stock, the cards that can't legally be placed in the layout go to the waste pile.

  7. Re-deals: Re-deals happen when you've run out of legal moves in a game of Solitaire. Some Solitaire rules may allow for a re-deal, where you reshuffle and redistribute the unused cards to further the game.

  8. Merci: Many solitaire games permit a "merci," and are essentially a cheat. It allows you to move a blocking card to the game progress.

Conclusion About the Important Solitaire Vocabulary Terms

Remember, Solitaire games may have slight rule variations based on the played version. However, most games involve some variation of moving cards between tableau piles, discarding cards into the waste, drawing cards from the stock, and building suits of cards within the foundation piles.

So, if you've got the solitaire terminology down, you'll be well-equipped to take on any version of the game! Happy gaming!


Solitaire Terminology FAQs

Here are the most asked questions about the glossary and the most important terms used in Solitaire and patience games.

What is the initial pattern formed by the dealt cards in Solitaire known as?

The initial pattern formed by the dealt cards in Solitaire is a Layout, Array or Tableau.

What does 'building' refer to in Solitaire games?

Building in Solitaire refers to placing one card on top of another in a move considered legal according to the rules of the specific Solitaire game being played.

What is the distinction between 'tableau' and 'foundation' in Solitaire?

In Solitaire, 'tableau' refers to the temporary place for the cards arranged before moving to their final destination. The 'foundation', on the other hand, is the final destination of the cards and is where you're trying to build up cards according to the game's rules.

What is the term for the remaining unused cards from the initial layout in Solitaire?

The remaining unused cards from the initial layout in Solitaire are referred to as the 'stock'.

How is the term 're-deal' used in the context of Solitaire games?

In Solitaire, a 're-deal' refers to the action taken when you've exhausted all legal moves. It involves reshuffling and redistributing the unused cards to further the game if the specific game rules allow.

What is a 'merci' in Solitaire?

In Solitaire, a 'merci' denotes a permissible 'cheat' within the game. It can involve moving a blocking card or taking some other action to help advance the game. It's allowed in many versions of Solitaire.