The Origin of the word Solitaire


I don’t just have a language website. I’m more rounded than that;) From time to time I create other websites for fun.

Most recently, I’ve been playing around with This is, unsurprisingly, a website where you can (or will be able) to play different types of Solitaire.

As I am interested in languages, and by extension etymology, I wondered about the origins and original meaning of the word Solitaire.

It sounds Latin, and so I reached for my Lewis and Short Latin dictionary (one of my most treasured possessions), and looked for Solitaire.

The closest word was solitarius.

Solitarius is an adjective meaning alone. Lewis and Short included a few handy Latin quotes some of which I will include here for later parsing🙂

Natura solitarium nihil amat

nature loves nothing solitary.

I’ve given the literal translation. A more pleasing rendering would be ‘nature abhors a vacuum’.

And the pleasing:

Hae apes non sunt solitaria natura, ut aquilae sed ut homines.

I then turned the page in the dictionary and discovered the word solitas. I think that this is a noun. It has the meaning ‘a being alone, solitude’.

I checked my Oxford English Dictionary of Etymology to confirm that the word Solitaire originates from the Latin word Solitarius.

The entry also told me that Solitaire is in fact a word from old French. It is still used in French as Solitaire. E.g. jouer au solitaire ‘to play Solitaire’.

This must have originated from the Latin Solitarius at some point in the dim and distant past, and I wondered when?

I discovered a good French dictionary which includes Etymology (although you need to be able to read French to make best use of it) called littre.

The appropriate page concerning the origins of the word Solitaire is this one.

Solitaire in French has two main meanings (or so it seems to me) and these are:-

D’une pers – “Qui est seul, isolé, esseulé” 

About a person – “Who is alone, isolated, lonely”

D’un lieu – “Où l’on est seul, où l’on vit seul, où l’on peut se retirer”

Of a place – “Where one is alone, where one lives alone, where one can withdraw”

I don’t know when Solitaire was first used in modern French to describe the game of Solitaire but the word was used by Sévigné in 1674 with the meaning of aloneness of solitary:

Elle [Mme de Thianges devenue dévote]… est toujours de très bonne compagnie, et n’est pas solitaire.

So, Solitaire came into the English language via the French which in turn absorbed it from Latin.

According to littre, solitarius was derived from solitas, itself derived from solus (alone).

Provenç. solitari, soletari ; espagn. et ital. solitario ; du lat. solitarius, dérivé de solitas, qui vient de solus, seul

Of course, in a way, none of this helps, as in the UK (and I believe France), Solitaire is in fact called Patience.

Solitaire and patience are different games entirely.

I really should have been checking the etymology of Patience;)

Besos et Pax,


This entry was posted in Latin, Solitaire, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *