What does each card in a deck of cards symbolize?

Playing cards have been around for centuries, with the standard 52-card deck we know today emerging in Europe in the 14th century. From the very beginning, the different suits and cards were rich with symbolism and meaning.

This article will provide an overview of the symbolic origins and deeper meanings behind modern playing cards. We’ll explore the symbolism behind each suit – Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs and Spades. We’ll also look at the meaning behind the different cards, from the Ace to the Queen to the Joker.

Understanding the symbolism in a deck of cards provides insight into the history and evolution of playing cards over centuries. It also reveals the ways cards have been used for divination, storytelling and meaningful connections beyond just gaming and entertainment.

The Ace

The ace card symbolizes new beginnings, potential, and opportunities. It is ranked both high and low in the sequence of cards. According to Wikipedia, “The ace originally was the lowest ranking card, but as the game of poker became more popular, the ace gradually became the highest card.” Source

As the Lalo app notes, “The ace showcases its superiority as the highest-ranking card while also retaining an element of fluidity since it can be counted low or high as needed.” Source So while the ace may be the top card, it also has the flexibility to be played as the lowest card in many games.

This dual high and low symbolism of the ace card reflects its representation of new beginnings and potential. It is like a seed that can flourish into something great or be planted anew. The ace signifies opportunities to start fresh and aim high or reinvent oneself from the ground up.

The King

The King card symbolizes leadership, authority and fatherhood as the highest male rank in the deck (Biddy Tarot). Representing the archetype of the “father,” the King is often authoritative, responsible, protective and in control. The classic visual of the King seated on his throne reinforces his status, power and stability (Wikipedia).

There are four Kings in the deck – the King of Hearts, King of Clubs, King of Diamonds and King of Spades. Each suit gives the King distinct qualities. For example, the King of Hearts represents compassionate leadership and using logic with an open heart. The King of Spades symbolizes a leader who uses his intellect to solve problems (Incandescent Tarot). Overall, Kings advise relying on wisdom and authority to make difficult decisions.

The Queen

The Queen card in a tarot deck symbolizes femininity, intuition, and motherhood. As the highest ranking female card, the Queen represents maturity, power, and compassion.

According to Biddy Tarot, the Queen often depicts a woman between 30-50 years old who has accumulated significant life experience (https://biddytarot.com/blog/court-cards-queens/). She exhibits the positive qualities traditionally associated with femininity – grace, empathy, and nurturing.

The Queen’s wisdom comes from her intuition and connection to the unconscious realm. She has deep insight into human nature and emotions. As KEEN notes, the Queen of Cups in particular represents an abundance of love, acceptance and compassion, though also commitment to proper conduct (https://www.keen.com/articles/tarot/queen-cards-of-the-tarot).

In many tarot decks, the Queen holds a flower, representing her connection to nature and fertility. She may be pictured with children, reflecting her motherly instincts. Her high rank indicates power and authority, though tempered by femininity and compassion.

The Jack

The Jack is one of the four traditional playing card court cards, along with the King, Queen, and Ace. The Jack represents youthfulness, immaturity, and playfulness. It is the lowest ranking of the male court cards in a standard 52-card deck.

In some games, the Jack may be referred to as a Knave. It is called “Valet” in French playing cards. The Italian, Portuguese and Spanish equivalent is the “Sota”.

Some meanings and symbolism associated with the Jack card include:

  • Trustworthy friend
  • Jester or mocker
  • Young man in search of love
  • Comrade and confidant

In cartomancy readings, drawing the Jack of Hearts is seen as a sign of a fun-loving, creative person entering your life. It can also mean a new friendship or romance is in the future.

The Jack has the fewest points of any court card, with a value of 2 points in many card games. Despite its low value and rank, the playful Jack continues to have an important role representing the young, carefree spirit in the royal court.

Source: Jack (playing card)

The Joker

The Joker card symbolizes humor, trickery, wildness, and unpredictability. As a wildcard in card games, it has no fixed value and can represent any other card. According to this article, the Joker’s origins trace back to the late 1860s in the United States. It was inspired by a character called “The Jolly Joker” in the popular Euchre card game. The Joker card became a standard part of playing card decks in the early 20th century.

The Joker’s wild and unpredictable nature allows it to disrupt the set order of a deck. Just like the court jester in medieval times, the Joker mocks rules, structure, and conventions. It serves as a cautionary reminder that even the best laid plans can be overturned in an instant. Beyond card games, pop culture has amplified the Joker as a symbol of social disorder, rebellion, and agent of chaos.


The suit of hearts represents love, relationships, and emotion [1]. Originating from the ‘Cups’ suit in the tarot deck, the heart suit relates to matters of love and family [2]. The heart symbol is drawn with its rounded bottom pointing upward and its two upper lobes pointing downwards to resemble the shape of the human heart. Hearts are colored red, representing the vitality and excitement of love and passion [3].

In cartomancy, including fortune telling with playing cards, the suit of hearts is interpreted as representing emotions, relationships, connections, empathy, and affinity. When many hearts appear in a reading, it often signifies strong feelings, close bonds, romance, and affection in one’s life. Conversely, a lack of hearts can suggest emotional distance, loneliness, or isolation.

Hearts are considered a positive and favorable suit, though an overabundance of hearts may indicate being ruled by feelings and losing objectivity. Overall, hearts represent beauty, pleasure, and the spark of human connection.


The suit of diamonds in a deck of cards represents wealth, riches, and luxury. Diamonds symbolize material abundance and success in business or finances (Card Suits and Symbolism, 2022). As the suit associated with the element of air, the diamonds suit implies intellect, mental processes, and aspirations (Wikipedia contributors, 2022). This suit is normally depicted in red color, though diamonds can sometimes appear in blue hues. The diamond shapes themselves represent brilliant cuts, adding to the symbolism of value and worth. Overall, diamonds in playing cards denote worldly achievements, prosperity and the finer things in life.


The suit of Clubs symbolizes intellect, knowledge, and wisdom. Clubs represent the season of summer and the youthful desire for education and experience. The Club suit features a three-leaf clover design and is traditionally colored black. The black color symbolizes the mind’s ability to thrive even in darkness through intellectual pursuits.

In cartomancy, the suit of Clubs is associated with academic achievement and higher learning. Drawing Club cards in a reading can signify using wisdom and logic to overcome challenges. The clover emblem echoes themes of luck, prosperity, and abundance associated with the shamrock plant. As such, Club cards also represent material wealth, business success, and windfalls arriving through intelligent enterprises or fortuitous coincidences.

Clubs correspond with the element of fire and evoke images of torches lighting the darkness of ignorance. They encourage following the heart’s passions fearlessly towards greater knowledge. Overall, the suit of Clubs signifies using mental faculties to uncover truth, seize opportunities, and attain meaningful growth.


The suit of spades is represented by a black spade symbol and has traditionally been associated with death, darkness, and conflict.1 The spade symbol itself resembles a spearhead, suggesting a connection to combat and war. Black is the color most commonly associated with spades, representing the darkness of night and unknown.2

In tarot, the suit of swords, which is similar to spades, represents intellect, reason, and strife. The spade suit can therefore symbolize challenges, resilience, and toughness.3 Spades is considered the highest suit in many card games, and thus can also represent winning against the odds and overcoming adversity.

Overall, the key symbolic meanings behind the suit of spades are death, darkness, intellect, conflict, challenges, and resilience in the face of difficulty.