There are a number of common features in many solitaire (patience) games, such as 'building down' and the 'foundations' and 'tableau', used to simplify the description of new games. Here is a partial list.


  • Stack - Cards are placed directly on top of each other, disallowing the player to see any card other than the top. In most cases, these cards are and should be kept hidden. Viewing these cards during a deal is often considered illegal, so they should be dealt face down.
  • Cascade - Cards are built on one another, starting from the bottom up. Each card's value and suit is face up, and should be able to be viewed by the player. However, only the top card is available for play. It is most commonly found in addition games.

Game Layout[]

  • Stock - A pile of cards, face down, which are left over after setting up the other layout areas. These can be turned over into the waste, usually one-by-one, but sometimes in groups of two or three, when the player wishes.
  • Waste/Wastepile - The area where the cards from the stock go when they are brought into play. Only cards from the stock can be played to the waste. Only the topmost card is available for play.
  • Foundations - Most solitaire games feature foundations - the aim of these games is to clear the tableau and move all the cards to the foundations. Usually they are built up by suit from Ace to King, but some games have different rules. Usually only thirteen cards are allowed in each foundation.
  • Tableau - This consists of a number of piles of cards where cards can be moved from one area to another, under varying rules. Some allow stacks of cards which match the building requirements to be moved, others only allow the top card to be moved, yet others allow any stack to be moved.
  • Reserve - A group or pile(s) of cards where building is usually not permitted. These cards are dealt out at the beginning, and used, commonly one card at a time, during the play.
  • Cells - Common to 'FreeCell' type games, cells allow only one card to be placed in them. Any card can be put in a cell. These act as maneuvering space.


These terms are usually combined in game explanations. For instance, a game may describe "building up in sequence by suit".

  • Building up - Cards can only be placed on lower value cards
  • Building down - Cards can only be placed on higher value cards
  • In sequence - Cards can only be placed on the card one higher or lower (usually one or the other, not both)
  • In multiples - Cards can only be placed on the card two, three or four higher or lower: a Jack is considered as an eleven, a Queen as a twelve and a King as a thirteen. Modular arithmetic is often applied - eg: an Ace can be placed on a Queen if building up by two is required
  • By suit - Cards can only be placed on a card of the same suit
  • By color - Cards can only be placed on a card of the same color (Diamonds and Hearts are considered Red, Spades and Clubs are Black)
  • By alternating colors - Cards can only be placed on a card of the opposite color
  • By any other suit or By any suit but the same - Cards cannot be placed on a card of the same suit.
  • Wrapping or Building round the corner - Building through the Ace, so that for example the sequence King, Ace, Two is allowed

British terms[]

Here are terms used by Peter Arnold in his book Card Games for One (ISBN 0-600-60727-5) and may be terms exclusively used in British English in explaining solitaire games. Whenever these terms have an equivalent in the terms above, the terms above are used as definition.

  • Grace - a special move that may be illegal to the rules of the game otherwise.
  • Heel - cards set aside for later in the game.
  • Layout - the tableau (see above).
  • Packing - Building on the tableau (see above).
    • In Ascending Sequence - Building up.
    • In Descending Sequence - Building down.
    • By Suit Sequence - Building by suit.
    • In Sequence - Building regardless of suit.
  • Waste Heap - the wastepile (see above).
  • Worrying Back - putting a card already built on a foundation back into the tableau.

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