Where does the word “faro” come from and What does faro mean?

In the early eighteenth century various card games which became popular at the gambling tables were introduced into England from France.

Little is now known about some of these, and others, such as basset (or bassette) and lansquenet, lost their popularity many years ago. But among these was the game now known as faro, although the name of the game, when first brought into England, was correctly spelled pharaoh, a translation of the French name, pharaon.

The reason for the original name is not positively known, but the assumption is that the name was taken from one or all of the king cards in the deck which bore a likeness to the Egyptian monarch upon its face. Possibly that likeness appeared only upon the king of spades.

Pharaoh means “king,” and it is customarily the spade suit, beginning with the king, which is reproduced upon the painted cloth upon which the game of faro is played.