Cards, charts & papyrus

χάρτης / Papyrus

What do cards, charts and papyrus have in common?

The words card and chart both come from the Ancient Greek word χάρτης (khártēs – papyrus), via the Old French carte / charte / chautre (charter, record, letter), from Latin charta (see below) [source].

χάρτης comes from χαράσσω (kharássō – I scratch, inscribe), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰer- (to scratch) [source].

χάρτης is also the root of the Latin word charta (papyrus, paper, poem, a writing, map, the papyrus plant), from which we get words in many languages, including the Italian carta (paper, map, menu), the Spanish carta (letter, map, menu, playing card), the German Charta (charter), the Irish cárta (card), the Icelandic kort (map, card, credit card), and the Czech charta (charter).

I discovered this when looking into the origins of the Spanish word cartera (wallet, handbag), which comes from the same root, as do the English words cartel, cartography and charter.

One thought on “Cards, charts & papyrus

  1. Then there is, of course, Carte Blanche, for ‘white or blank paper’ according to It is often said in terms of being a “blank check”, meaning a blank bank check or bank draft, so that if the check is “blank” you would be free to write in any amount you wished.

    I wonder if, centuries ago, some generous soul gave away a ‘blank papyrus’? (Not to be confused with a blank platypus, which is simply a puzzled Ornithorhynchus that didn’t get the joke.)

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