AskDefine | Define solitaire

Dictionary Definition



1 a gem (usually a diamond) in a setting by itself
2 extinct flightless bird related to the dodo [syn: Pezophaps solitaria]
3 dull gray North American thrushes noted for its beautiful song
4 a card game played by one person [syn: patience]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • Adoption of French solitaire and ultimately from Latin sōlitārius


  • /ˈsɑlɪtɛɹ/ (US)


  1. A person who lives alone.
  2. A game, usually a card game, that can be played by one person.
  3. An extinct bird, Pezophaps solitaria, that lived on the island of Rodrigues.
  4. One of several species of bird in the thrush family.



game that can be played by one person
  • Czech: pasiáns
  • Finnish: pasianssi


  1. see solitary

Related terms


bird in the thrush family


  • Oxford English Dictionary

Extensive Definition

Solitaire also called patience is any of a family of single-player card games of a generally similar character, but varying greatly in detail. The games are generally referred to as "patience" in British English and "solitaire" in American English, although "solitaire" is gaining popularity in British English due to the game in Windows.
These games typically involve dealing cards from a shuffled deck into a prescribed arrangement on a tabletop, from which the player attempts to reorder the deck by suit and rank through a series of moves transferring cards from one place to another under prescribed restrictions. Some games allow for the reshuffling of the deck(s), and/or the placement of cards into new or "empty" locations.
Solitaire has its own terminology; see solitaire terminology.
There are many different solitaire games, but the term "solitaire" is often used to refer specifically to the most well-known form, called "Klondike". Klondike and some other solitaire games have been adapted into two-player competitive games.
There is a vast array of variations on the solitaire/patience theme, using either one or more decks of cards, with rules of varying complexity and skill levels. Many of these have been converted to electronic form and are available as computer games. Basic forms of Klondike solitaire and FreeCell come with every current installation of Microsoft Windows, for example, and Windows Me, Windows XP and Windows Vista also include a version of Spider. A solitaire game is included on all of Apple's iPods (with the exception of the iPod Touch). Many software solitaire collections can be downloaded from the internet at no charge.
The term 'solitaire' is also used for single-player games of concentration and skill using a set layout of tiles, pegs or stones rather than cards. These games include:


Like the origin of playing cards, the origin of solitaire is largely unknown as there are no historical records to support it. Some scholars think these kinds of games are largely French in origin as early English language books about patience games refer to French literature, as can be seen in the names of some games in English books such as La Belle Lucie, Le Cadran, Le Loi Salique, La Nivernaise and others.
Napoleon was also said to have "played patience" (solitaire) during his exile. Some solitaire games were named after him, such as Napoleon at St. Helena, Napoleon's Square, etc. But whether he played those games or actually invented them is not known.
The first collection of solitaire card games in the English language is attributed to Lady Adelaide Cadogan through her Illustrated Games of Patience, published in about in 1870 and reprinted several times. Before this, there was no literature about solitaire, not even in such books as Charles Cotton's The Compleat Gamester (1674), Abbé Bellecour's Academie des Jeux (1674), and Bohn's Handbook of Games (1850), all of which are used as reference on card games.
Lady Cadogan's book spawned other collections such as Patience by E. D. Cheney, Amusements for Invalids by Annie B. Henshaw (1870), and later Dick's Games of Patience, published by Dick and Fitzgerald. Other books about solitaire written towards the end of the 19th century were by H. E. Jones (a.k.a. Cavendish), Angelo Lewis (a.k.a. Professor Hoffman), Basil Dalton, and Ernest Bergholt.
There are also literary references to solitaire games. Some of these are:
It is also noted that according to Redbook magazine, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was a fan of the solitaire game Spider.
In the 1962 movie The Manchurian Candidate, Raymond Shaw is compelled to perform specific actions through a brainwashing trigger, which often includes a game of traditional solitaire and finding the queen of diamonds.
In the Finnish TV-series Hovimäki Aunt Victoria is very fond of playing solitaire.

Examples of solitaire card games

See: List of solitaire card games

Reference materials

  • Lee, Sloane & Packard, Gabriel. 100 Best Solitaire Games: 100 Ways to Entertain Yourself with a Deck of Cards. ; New York, N. Y.: Cardoza Publishing, 2004. (ISBN 1-58042-115-6)
  • Arnold, Peter. Card Games for One. London: Hamlyn, 2002 (ISBN 0-600-60727-5)
  • Moorehead, Albert H. & Mott-Smith, Geoffrey. The Complete Book of Solitaire and Patience Games. New York: Bantam Books, 1977 (ISBN 0-553-26240-8)
  • Crépeau, Pierre. The Complete Book of Solitaire (a translation of Le Grand Livre des Patiences). Willowdale, Ontario: Firefly Books, 2001. (ISBN 1-55209-597-5)
  • Marks, Arnold & Harrod, Jacqueline. Card Games Made Easy. Surrey, England: Clarion, 1997 (ISBN 1-899606-17-3)

External links

solitaire in Bulgarian: Пасианс
solitaire in Danish: Kabale
solitaire in German: Patience
solitaire in Spanish: Solitario (juego de naipes)
solitaire in French: Patience (jeu)
solitaire in Korean: 솔리테어
solitaire in Italian: Solitario
solitaire in Hebrew: סוליטר
solitaire in Lithuanian: Solitaire (žaidimas)
solitaire in Dutch: Patience
solitaire in Japanese: ソリティア
solitaire in Norwegian: Kabal
solitaire in Norwegian Nynorsk: Kabal
solitaire in Polish: Pasjans
solitaire in Portuguese: Paciência (jogo)
solitaire in Russian: Пасьянс
solitaire in Simple English: Solitaire
solitaire in Finnish: Pasianssi
solitaire in Swedish: Patiens
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