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How did playing cards get their names?
How did playing cards get their names?

Today's playing cards got their names from a combination of names in Italian and French decks of cards.

The French trimmed the Italian deck from 78 cards to 52 cards, kept certain aspects of the Italian deck, and combined it with aspects of their deck. The British adopted the new French deck, the Americans followed suit, and the product of the changes the French made to their deck is the modern deck of cards.

Certain cards in today's playing cards, Italy's tarots, or picture cards, were used for both fortune telling and for card games, and made up 22 of the Italian deck of 78 cards. The remaining 56 cards were number cards. One tarot card named "il matto," or the fool, is present in today's deck as the joker.

The Italian deck had four suits, which represented the chalice, the sword, money, and the baton, and four "court" cards, the king, queen, knight, and knave.

Of the 56 cards in the Italian deck, the French kept 52, which included the king, queen, knave, and 10 number cards in each of the four suits. They renamed the suits the spade, heart, diamond, and club and the deck they created is the most common deck in use today.

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