Hearts Card Game Terminology

By Neal Taparia - 6/19/2024

The Hearts card game is a classic trick-taking game that has been enjoyed by players of all ages for generations. Hearts uses unique terminology, including the terms ‘trick,’ ‘leading,’ ‘shooting the moon,’ ‘void,’ ‘breaking hearts,’ and ‘dumping.’ Understanding the terminology used in Hearts is essential for anyone looking to master the game and fully appreciate its strategic depth.

Key Terminology in Hearts


A 'trick' refers to a single round of play in which each player plays one card. The player who plays the highest-ranking card in the suit that was led wins the trick and collects all the cards played in that round.


As Hearts uses standard playing cards, there are four suits: Hearts, Spades, Diamonds, and Clubs. Players must follow the suit that is led unless they have no cards of that suit, in which case they can play any card.


'Leading' is the act of playing the first card in a trick. The player who wins a trick leads the next one. Strategic leading is crucial, as it shapes the choices of the players who come after.

Passing Cards

Passing is not present in every version of Hearts, but it is a common aspect of many iterations. Before the start of each round, players pass three cards to another player.

The direction of the pass rotates with each hand: to the left, to the right, and across the table, with every fourth hand having no pass. Knowing which cards to pass is important, as passing helps players discard undesirable cards and shape their hand.

The Queen of Spades

Again, not a rule present in every iteration, in many versions of Hearts, the Queen of Spades carries a penalty of thirteen points.

Shooting the Moon

Shooting the moon in Hearts is a bold strategy in which a player attempts to collect all the Hearts and the Queen of Spades. If successful, instead of receiving twenty-six penalty points, the player gives twenty-six points to each of their opponents, drastically shifting the game's balance.


A player is 'void' in a suit when they have no cards of that suit. Being void in a suit can be advantageous, as it allows the player to play high penalty cards when that suit is led.

Breaking Hearts

‘Hearts are broken' when the first Heart card is played in the game. Hearts cannot be led until they are broken, meaning no player can lead with a Heart until a Heart has been played in a trick where another suit was led.

Leading Spades

Leading with Spades, especially lower value cards, can be a strategic move to force opponents to play high Spades, including the Queen of Spades, which players aim to avoid.


'Dumping' refers to getting rid of high penalty cards when a player cannot follow suit. This is a common strategy to avoid accumulating penalty points.

Final Thoughts

Mastering the terminology of any deck is key to any player looking to improve their skill. Whether you're playing with friends in person or soon-to-be-friends online, Hearts offers endless opportunities for fun and strategy.

If you’re already an expert and want to spice up a game of Hearts, consider adding Jokers. It’s easy to play a variant using wildcards, and if you want to learn more about the deeper meaning of playing cards, check out our post on Joker symbolism.

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