Brief card descriptions for the Major and Minor Arcana of the Rider-Waite tarot from the Pictorial Key to the Tarot, by A. E. Waite.

Major Arcana

I - The Magician
Skill, diplomacy, address, subtlety; sickness, pain, loss, disaster, snares of enemies; self-confidence, will; the Querent, if male.

II - The High Priestess
Secrets, mystery, the future as yet unrevealed; silence, tenacity; mystery, wisdom, science; the woman who interests the Querent, if male; the Querent herself, if female.

III - The Empress
Fruitfulness, action, initiative, length of days; the unknown, clandestine; also difficulty; doubt, ignorance.

IV - The Emperor
Stability, power, protection, realization; a great person; aid, reason, conviction; also authority and will.

V - The Hierophant
Marriage, alliance, captivity, servitude; by another account, mercy and goodness; inspiration; the man to whom the Querent has recourse.

VI - The Lovers
Attraction, love, beauty, trials overcome.

VII - The Chariot
Succour, providence; also war, triumph, presumption, vengeance, trouble.

VIII - Strength
Power, energy, action, courage, magnanimity; also complete success and honours.

IX - The Hermit
Prudence, circumspection; also and especially treason, dissimulation; roguery, corruption.

X - Wheel of Fortune
Destiny, fortune, success, elevation, luck, felicity.

XI - Justice
Equity, rightness, probity, executive; triumph of the deserving side in law.

XII - The Hanged Man
Wisdom, circumspection, discernment, trials, sacrifice. intuition, divination, prophecy.

XIII - Death
End, mortality, destruction, corruption; also, for a man, the loss of benefactor; for a woman, many contrarieties; for a maid, failure of marriage projects.

XIV - Temperance
Economy, moderation, frugality, management, accommodation.

XV - The Devil
Ravage, violence, vehemence, extraordinary efforts, force, fatality; that which is predestined but is not for this reason evil.

XVI - The Tower
Misery, distress, indigence, adversity, calamity, disgrace, deception, ruin.  It is a card in particular of unforeseen catastrophe.

XVII - The Star
Loss, theft, privation, abandonment; another reading says-hope and bright prospects.

XVIII - The Moon
Hidden enemies, danger, calumny, darkness, terror, deception, occult forces, error.

XIX - The Sun
Material happiness, fortunate marriage, contentment.

XX - The Last Judgment
Change of Position, renewal, outcome.  Another account specifies total loss through lawsuit.

0 - The Fool
Folly, mania, extravagance, intoxication, delirium, frenzy, bewrayment.

XXI - The World
Assured success, recompense, voyage, route, emigration, flight, change of surrounings.

Minor Arcana


King of Wands
Dark man, friendly, countryman, generally married, honest and conscientious.  The card always signifies honesty, and may mean news concerning an unexpected heritage to fall in before very long.

Queen of Wands
A dark woman, countrywoman, friendly, chaste, loving, honourable.  If the card beside her signifies a man, she is well disposed towards him; if a woman, she is interested in the Querent.  Also, love of money, or a certain success in business.

Knight of Wands
Departure, absence, flight, emigration.  A dark young man, friendly.  Change of residence.

Page of Wands
Dark young man, faithful, a lover, an envoy, a postman.  Beside a man, he will bear favourable testimony concerning him.  A dangerous rival, if followed by the Page of Cups.  Has the chief qualities of his suit.  He may signify family intelligence.

Ten of Wands
A card of many significances, and some of the readings cannot be harmonized.  I set aside that which connects it with honour and good faith.  The chief meaning is oppression simply, but it is also fortune, gain, any kind of success, and then it is the oppression of these things.  It is also a card of false-seeming, disguise, perfidy.  The place which the figure is approaching may suffer from the rods that he carries.  Success is stultified if the Nine of Swords follows, and if it is a question of a lawsuit, there will be certain loss.

Nine of Wands
The card signifies strength in opposition.  If attacked, the person will meet an onslaught boldly; and his build shews that he may prove a formidable antagonist.  With this main significance there are all its possible adjuncts-delay, suspension, adjournment.

Eight of Wands
Activity in undertakings, the path of such activity, swiftness, as that of an express messenger; great haste, great hope, speed towards an end which promises assured felicity; generally, that which is on the move; also the arrows of love.

Seven of Wands
It is a card of valour, for, on the surface, six are attacking one, who has, however, the vantage position.  On the intellectual plane, it signifies discussion, wordy strife; in business-negotiations, war of trade, barter, competition.  It is further a card of success, for the combatant is on the top and his enemies may be unable to reach him.

Six of Wands
The card has been so designed that it can cover several significations; on the surface, it is a victor triumphing, but it is also great news, such as might be carried in state by the King's courier; it is expectation crowned with its own desire, the crown of hope, and so forth.

Five of Wands
Imitation, as, for example, sham fight, but also the strenuous competition and struggle of the search after riches and fortune.  In this sense it connects with the battle of life.  Hence some attributions say that it is a card of gold, gain, opulence.

Four of Wands
They are for once almost on the surface-country life, haven of refuge, a species of domestic harvest-home, repose, concord, harmony, prosperity, peace, and the perfected work of these.

Three of Wands
He symbolizes established strength, enterprise, effort, trade, commerce, discovery; those are his ships, bearing his merchandise, which are sailing over the sea.  The card also signifies able co-operation in business, as if the successful merchant prince were looking from his side towards yours with a view to help you.

Two of Wands
Between the alternative readings there is no marriage possible; on the one hand, riches, fortune, magnificence; on the other, physical suffering, disease, chagrin, sadness, mortification.  The design gives one suggestion; here is a lord overlooking his dominion and alternately contemplating a globe; it looks like the malady, the mortification, the sadness of Alexander amidst the grandeur of this world's wealth.

Ace of Wands
Creation, invention, enterprise, the powers which result in these; principle; beginning, source; birth, family, origin, and in a sense the virility which is behind them; the starting point of enterprises; according to another account, money, fortune, inheritance.


King of Cups
Fair man, man of business, law, or divinity; responsible, disposed to oblige the Querent; also equity, art and science, including those who profess science, law and art; creative intelligence.

Queen of Cups
Good, fair woman; honest, devoted woman, who will do service to the Querent; loving intelligence, and hence the gift of vision; success, happiness, pleasure; also wisdom, virtue; a perfect spouse and a good mother.

Knight of Cups
Arrival, approach-sometimes that of a messenger; advances, proposition, demeanour, invitation, incitement.

Page of Cups
Fair young man, one impelled to render service and with whom the Querent will be connected; a studious youth; news, message; application, reflection, meditation; also these things directed to business.

Ten of Cups
Contentment, repose of the entire heart; the perfection of that state; also perfection of human love and friendship; if with several picture-cards, a person who is taking charge of the Querent's interests; also the town, village, or country inhabited by the Querent.

Nine of Cups
Concord, contentment, physical bien-etre; also victory, success, advantage; satisfaction for the Querent or person for whom the consultation is made.

Eight of Cups
The card speaks for itself on the surface, but other readings are entirely antithetical-giving joy, mildness, timidity, honour, modesty.  In practice, it is usually found that the card shews the decline of a matter, or that a matter which has been thought to be important is really of slight consequence-either for good or evil.

Seven of Cups
Fairy favours, images of reflection, sentiment, imagination, things seen in the glass of contemplation; some attainment in these degrees, but nothing permanent or substantial is suggested.

Six of Cups
A card of the past and of memories, looking back, as-for example-on childhood; happiness, enjoyment, but coming rather from the past; things that have vanished.  Another reading reverses this, giving new relations, new knowledge, new environment, and then the children are disporting in an unfamiliar precinct.

Five of Cups
It is a card of loss, but something remains over; three have been taken, but two are left; it is a card of inheritance, patrimony, transmission, but not corresponding to expectations; with some interpreters it is a card of marriage, but not without bitterness or frustration.

Four of Cups
Weariness, disgust, aversion, imaginary vexations, as if the wine of this world had caused satiety only; another wine, as if a fairy gift, is now offered the wastrel, but he sees no consolation therein.  This is also a card of blended pleasure.

Three of Cups
The conclusion of any matter in plenty, perfection and merriment; happy issue, victory, fulfillment, solace, healing.

Two of Cups
Love, passion, friendship, affinity, union, concord, sympathy, the inter-relation of the sexes, and-as a suggestion apart from all offices of divination-that desire which is not in Nature, but by which Nature is sanctified.

Ace of Cups
House of the true heart, joy, content, abode, nourishment, abundance, fertility; Holy Table, felicity hereof.


King of Swords
Whatsoever arises out of the idea of judgment and all its connexions-power, command, authority, militant intelligence, law, offices of the crown, and so forth.

Queen of Swords
Widowhood, female sadness and embarrassment, absence, sterility, mourning, privation, separation.

Knight of Swords
Skill, bravery, capacity, defence, address, enmity, wrath, war, destruction, opposition, resistance, ruin.  There is therefore a sense in which the card signifies death, but it carries this meaning only in its proximity to other cards of fatality.

Page of Swords
Authority, overseeing, secret service, vigilance, spying, examination, and the qualities thereto belonging.

Ten of Swords
Whatsoever is intimated by the design; also pain, affliction, tears, sadness, desolation.  It is not especially a card of violent death.

Nine of Swords
Death, failure, miscarriage, delay, deception, disappointment, despair.

Eight of Swords
Bad news, violent chagrin, crisis, censure, power in trammels, conflict, calumny; also sickness.

Seven of Swords
Design, attempt, wish, hope, confidence; also quarreling, a plan that may fail, annoyance.  The design is uncertain in its import, because the significations are widely at variance with each other.

Six of Swords
Journey by water, route, way envoy, commissionary, expedient.

Five of Swords
Degradation, destruction, revocation, infamy, dishonour, loss, with the variants and analogues of these.

Four of Swords
Vigilance, retreat, solitude, hermit's repose, exile, tomb and coffin.  It is these last that have suggested the design.

Three of Swords
Removal, absence, delay, division, rupture, dispersion, and all that the design signifies naturally, being too simple and obvious to call for specific enumeration.

Two of Swords
Conformity and the equipoise which it suggests, courage, friendship, concord in a state of arms; another reading gives tenderness, affection, intimacy.  The suggestion of harmony and other favourable reading must be considered in a qualified manner, as Swords generally are not symbolic of beneficent forces in human affairs.

Ace of Swords
Triumph, the excessive degree in everything, conquest, triumph of force.  It is a card of great force, in love as well as in hatred.  The crown may carry a much higher significance than comes usually within the sphere of fortune-telling.


King of Pentacles
Valour, realizing intelligence, business and normal intellectual aptitude, sometimes mathematical gifts and attainments of this kind; success in these paths.

Queen of Pentacles
Opulence, generosity, magnificence, security, liberty.

Knight of Pentacles
Utility, serviceableness, interest, responsibility, rectitude-all on the normal and external plane.

Page of Pentacles
Application, study, scholarship, reflection; another reading says news, messages and the bringer thereof; also rule, management.

Ten of Pentacles
Gain, riches; family matters, archives, extraction, the abode of a family.

Nine of Pentacles
Prudence, safety, success, accomplishment, certitude, discernment.

Eight of Pentacles
Work, employment, commission, craftsmanship, skill in craft and business, perhaps in the preparatory stage.

Seven of Pentacles
These are exceedingly contradictory; in the main, it is a card of money, business, barter; but one reading gives altercation, quarrel-and another innocence, ingenuity, purgation.

Six of Pentacles
Presents, gifts, gratification; another account says attention, vigilance; now is the accepted time, present prosperity, etc.

Five of Pentacles
The card foretells material trouble above all, whether in the form illustrated-that is, destitution-or otherwise.  For some cartomancists, it is a card of love and lovers-wife, husband, friend, mistress; also concordance, affinities.  These alternatives cannot be harmonized.

Four of Pentacles
The surety of possessions, cleaving to that which one has, gift, legacy, inheritance.

Three of Pentacles
Metier, trade, skilled labour; usually, however, regarded as a card of nobility, aristocracy, renown, glory.

Two of Pentacles
On the one hand it is represented as a card of gaiety, recreation and its connexions, which is the subject of the design; but it is read also as news and messages in writing, as obstacles, agitation, trouble, embroilment.

Ace of Pentacles
Perfect contentment, felicity, ecstasy; also speedy intelligence;