A Glossary of Solitaire

The following is a brief dictionary of terms used in solitaire, both common terms found in the literature and some new terms I propose.

AllPlay -- every possible card is automatically played to the foundations as soon as exposed.   This feature is dangerous in many games (e.g. Klondike and FreeCell) and is not recommended as a standard feature.

Autoplay -- automatic play (by a computer solitaire program) of cards to foundations. This should only be done for cards which cannot be needed again in play (see FCFAQ for appropriate rules for FreeCell/Klondike games). In one-deck in-suit packing games (Eight Off, Baker's Game, Seahaven Towers), every possible card (AllPlay) may safely be played.

Bouquet -- a group of cards dealt out initially, any of which can be freely played at any time (cf. Flower Garden, King Albert).  The bouquet is not replenished.   Effectively, in games where the stock is dealt one card at a time and the waste may be redealt as often as desired, the stock acts as a bouquet.

Building -- Placement of cards into foundation piles, usually in sequential ranks and often in suit.   Building plays are normally permament (but see Worrying Back).

Carpet -- a group of cards dealt out initially, which can be freely played from at any time and replenished (cf. Carpet, Queen's Audience).

Column -- a group of vertically overlapped cards. They are almost always fanned downward, so that one card which is uncovered is at the lowest point of the column (on the playing table or computer screen). Although the column is still thought of as a pile of cards, the uncovered card is called the bottom of the column and the most deeply buried card is called the top. Many games have between 6 and 12 columns.

Crossblock -- a situation where neither of two plays can be made because they interfere with each other.   In Pyramid, for example, neither of two cards may be discarded if they each cover the only card which can be used to discard the other.     Crossblocks may also occur in Scorpion and many other games.  Part of the strategy in some games is to avoid crossblocks.

Deal -- a specific order in which the cards are dealt out; in up-to-date computer programs this can be specified by a number selected from a range (for example, 1 to 32,000 in the early versions of Microsoft FreeCell), so that different players can compare results on the same arrangement of cards in a particular game. The term deal comes from contract bridge, and is preferred to terms like game or shuffle which have other meanings.    See seed.

Depot (Cell or Freecell) -- one or more locations which can be used for temporary storage of cards until they can be played (characteristic of the Eight Off family which also includes FreeCell).   In most cases only one card at a time is permitted in each depot.   A group of freecells is sometimes also called a reserve, but this tends to confuse the term reserve even further.

Discard -- to remove from play.  In most games where discarding is permitted, cards are removed in pairs (or larger groups) of the same rank, or combinations of cards whose ranks add up to a particular value (e.g. 13 in Pyramid).   Though some computer solitaires show a pile of removed cards (perhaps to facilitate undo?), this makes the visual display confusing: removed cards should simply disappear from the screen.

Fan -- a group of horizontally fanned cards, usually fanned to the right so that the indices are right-side-up. Some books and programs show half of the rows in games like Beleaguered Castle fanned left, but this makes the cards harder to read. Functionally equivalent to a column; the top card is the one furthest to the right. The choice between vertical rows and horizontal fans is traditional on a game-by-game basis.

Flourish -- to finish by playing all or most of the cards to the foundations at once.

Game -- one of the more than a thousand different varieties of solitaire. This term should not be used as a synonym for Deal.

Grace -- a play not usually allowed by the rules, which is permitted when the game becomes otherwise blocked.

KingOnly -- an empty column can only be filled with a king (or the card next in rank below the foundation base).

Open solitaire -- a solitaire of perfect information, in which all of the cards are initially dealt face up, with no redeals (Gaps and La Belle Lucie are not open).

Packing -- temporary placing of cards, most often in sequential rank order (and usually opposite to the order of the foundation building), on columns/fans in the tableau.    Play of cards is permitted between columns (and sometimes to empty columns) to facilitate eventual building moves to foundations, according to various sets of rules.     Advocated in David Parlett's books to avoid confusion with the term Building.

Pre-founded: dealing a starting card (either at random, or an automatic ace or king as defined by the game's rules) to each foundation at the beginning of the deal. Generally either all or none of the foundations are pre-founded, but there are exceptions (Panama Canal). Some or all depots may also sometimes be prefounded (as in Eight Off or Seahaven Towers, where half of them are).

Pyramid -- a terrace of a triangular shape, with rows of cards starting with one at the top and each row having one more card than the previous. Each card except for the bottom row is partially covered by two cards in the following row.   Pyramids occur almost exclusively in discarding games.

Rectified deal (Nestor) -- a deal in which no cards of the same rank are dealt to the same column. A card which would match a previous card in the same column in rank is placed on the bottom of the deck and the next card (if legal) is dealt instead.

Redeal -- to take part of the tableau and deal it again. This is done in many games with the waste, which is turned over and dealt again in the same order. In some games, such as La Belle Lucie, Gaps, and their relatives, the foundations, or the part of the tableau in correct order are left intact and the rest of the deck is shuffled and redealt.

Relaxed -- easier variation of some games in which groups of cards in proper sequence are allowed to be moved as a unit, where normally only a single card could be moved (e.g. Forty Thieves or Flower Garden).  In Relaxed FreeCell, a proper alternate-color sequence of cards can be moved as a unit, without using freecells. Also applied to variants of Spider where sequences of cards in mixed suits can be moved as a group (though completed suites must still be in one suit).

Reserve -- a portion of the tableau which is dealt out at the start of the deal, where packing/building is not allowed. It consists of a fixed number of cards; they may all be available at once (Simultaneous) or one at a time (Sequential); all cards (Open) or only the top card (Closed) may be visible; and cards taken out may be replaced (Replenishing) or not (usually replacement is from the waste, occasionally but nonsensically from the stock (this makes it extremely difficult to work your way back through the waste). Sequential reserves are almost always non-replenishing; simultaneous ones are always open (otherwise how can one choose a card?).

Since the term is so vague, I propose giving each of the different types of reserves its own name, from games in which they are characteristic:
Open Sequential Non-Replenishing -- Terrace
Open Simultaneous Replenishing -- Carpet
Open Simultaneous Non-Replenishing -- Bouquet
Closed Sequential Non-Replenishing -- Storehouse (a Replenishing version is theoretically possible, but has not been used as a mechanism as far as I know).

Scorpion packing -- any visible card may be packed according to the applicable set of rules; all cards covering it are moved to the corresponding location.

Seed -- a whole number (integer) which initializes a random number generator to allow it to produce a unique sequence of 52 (or 104, 156, etc.) cards.   This mechanism allows computer solitaires to have easily repeatable deals by associating each number with a particular deal.

Shuffle -- to mix all of the deck before distributing it at the start of a deal, or part of the deck during play as part of a Redeal.

Spider deal -- dealing of a group of cards from the stock all at once; one to each tableau column (cf. Spider, Aces Up, Interregnum, Easthaven)

Stock -- a portion of the deck left over after other elements of the tableau are dealt. When play begins, this can be dealt out, usually either one or three cards at a time, to a waste pile. In some games, like Spider, the stock is dealt in batches, one card to the bottom of each tableau column at a time.

Storehouse -- a pile of cards dealt initially, with only the top card face up, which must be played in sequence (cf. Canfield, Toad in the Hole).

Suite -- a completed set of thirteen cards in sequence (usually in suit, usually from ace to king). In some games (Spider) only completed suites can be moved to the foundations; in others (Autumn Leaves, Simple Simon, Scorpion) suites are not removed.     Another useful term which appears in David Parlett's books.

Supermove -- a move of a long sequence using one or more empty columns, possibly with freecells as well (cf. FreeCell, Beleaguered Castle).

Tableau -- the arrangement of cards in a particular game.  The tableau may consist of one of more of stock/waste, columns, and various kinds of reserves.

Talon (Heel) -- obsolete. The original correct meaning is the same as Stock, but it has been misapplied to the waste. 

Terrace -- a pile of cards dealt initially, all face up, which must be played in sequence (cf. Terrace, {multiple} Royal Cotillion).

Undo -- to restore the tableau to an earlier position by taking back one or more plays.    Commonly found in computer solitaire; unless your memory is superb it is usually difficult to take back more than a play or two when playing solitaire by hand.

Waste -- a pile where cards dealt from the stock are placed if unplayed elsewhere.

Worrying back -- packing a card already built to a foundation pile back to a tableau column. In only a few games is this specifically allowed, but in games which are difficult to win (e.g. Klondike) players may allow themselves this privilege to help their winning chances. Worrying back is a type of Grace.   Not to be confused with Undo.

This article is copyright 2008 by Michael Keller.  All rights reserved.