sol·i·taire / ˈsäləˌter/ • n. 1. any of various card games played by one person, the object of which is to use up all one's cards by forming particular arrangements and sequences. 2. a diamond or other gem set in a piece of jewelry by itself. ∎ a ring set with such a gem. 3. either of two large extinct flightless birds (family Raphidae) related to the dodo, found on two of the Mascarene Islands until they were exterminated in the 18th century. 4. a large American thrush (genus Myadestes) with mainly gray plumage and a short bill.
solitaire or patience, any card game that can be played by one person. Solitaire is the American name; in England it is known as patience. There are probably more kinds of solitaire than all other card games together. The aim in most is to segregate the four suits, each in sequence, against the luck of the shuffle. The game is usually played with one or two decks. Cards are laid out on the table in an arrangement called the tableau. All the cards of a certain rank form the foundations on which the suits are built. Play proceeds either until the game is won (called
the game) or until further play is impossible. Although the names of games vary greatly, the most popular solitaires include Klondike (probably the best known), Canfield (named for Richard A. Canfield), accordion, spider, golf, and clock. In double solitaire, for two persons, each plays his own game of either Klondike or Canfield, but each can build on his opponent's (as well as his own) aces. The object is to play the greater number of cards to the center.
See A. H. Morehead and G. Mott-Smith, Complete Book of Solitaire and Patience Games (1949, repr. 1973); G. F. Hervey, Card Games for One (1965); D. Berveiler, Strategic Solitaire (1987).
From the mid 18th century, the term was also given to a game for one player, as a form of patience, or a game played by removing pegs one at a time from a board by jumping others over them from adjacent holes, the object being to be left with only one peg.
The word comes from Latin solitarius ‘solitary’.