I learned that there are two words for "heart": "koro" and "kero". The first one is a biological term, while the second one is a term for a playing card (♥️). Why are there two words? I checked a few languages and the word is the same in most languages (English, German, French, Italian) for both terms. The word "piko" can also refer both to a playing card (♠️) and to a sting.

  • I didn't know that. I just looked it up and you are correct. I guess in this case Esperanto is more precise.
    – Lumo5
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 6:33

2 Answers 2


According to Vilborg, all four playing card suit names were taken together directly from French - apparently without regard to koro - which comes primarily from Latin.

In fact, all four suits correspond to objects that have their own names in Esperanto:

  • kero / koro
  • trefo / trifolio
  • karoo / kahelo
  • piko / pikilo

You checked wrong languages :) The obvious ones to look at are Polish and Russian:

hearts (♥️): kiery, червы
heart (biological, metaphorical): serce, сердце

Meanings of Esperanto words are very often based on Slavic languages, rather than Germanic or Romance ones. And I think it's a good thing, as it makes Esperanto more international. The Slavic influence on Esperanto is underestimated, as people often only pay attention to how the words look like and not to details of their meanings.

And in this case it is in fact possible that the Esperanto names of card suits come not from French, but from Polish (which in turn has them from French):

  • trefo - trefl
  • karoo - karo
  • kero - kier
  • piko - pik
  • 1
    Add Bulgarian to that list: hearts → купа, heart → сърце. Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 8:17
  • But it looked to me like both words "koro" and "kero" don't have a Slavic etymology, but a Latin one. Wiktionary says that "koro" comes from Latin "cor" and that "kero" comes from French "cœur". Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 8:26
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    @RobinvanderVliet The origin of the word form and the origin of its meaning may be different. As I wrote, people tend to look only at the former and ignore the latter; that is probably the case with the author of that etymology. Zamenhof was clearly more fluent in Russian and Polish than in any Romance language, so it's not surprising that many word meanings have a Slavic origin, even if the word itself is made of a Romance root.
    – miĥaŭ
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 9:27
  • I think the Slavic words may in reality very well come from French (or other romance influence). For example "trefy" has absolutely no reason to be the name for ♣ in Czech, as it is a word that would mean trafoj. But comparing it to trèfles makes much more sense.
    – La Vo-o
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 13:20
  • @LaVo I wouldn't say they may come from French, they very clearly come from French, as I wrote in the answer.
    – miĥaŭ
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 14:41

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