I’m almost finished with Veltman’s Сердце и думка [Heart and head] (see this LH post), and I think I see why the young Dostoevsky liked it so much; not only does it show considerable psychological penetration, but this must have appealed to him: “из одного человека можно больше сделать, нежели из мильона голов; один в мильон раз лучше мильона” [you can do more with a single person than with a million; one person is a million times better than a million]. Of course, that is said by a demon to a witch, but that’s Veltman for you. At any rate, he refers a couple of times to тинтере [tintere], a card game apparently equivalent to кончинка [konchinka], and (according to that Wikipedia article) also spelled тинтерей [tinterei] and тинтерет [tinteret]. I presume it’s of French origin, given those spellings, and the stress is presumably therefore on the final syllable, but I’ve had no luck finding any mention of such a game outside of Russia. Anybody know what the origin might be?

Addendum. Franco Pratesi in Russian Card Games and Their Literature (pdf) describes the exiguous literature on the subject and gives a brief account of tenteret (as he spells it), beginning: “It is said to have an old French origin, to have been very much played at home, but to be at present almost forgotten. I could find no trace in French sources of this seemingly French name, nor of the game itself.” Pratesi also describes “babochka” and “konchinka,” if anyone needs to know about those games.


  1. Nothing similar sounding to me on the Pagat page.

  2. Catherine the Great mentioned the game in 1782 in a letter to the Prince de Ligne:
    “En un mot, nous aimons tous à nous rappeler votre séjour en ce pays, mais vous n’en connaissez plus la carte; le reversi a succédé au tinteret et Tsarskoé-Sélo a acquis des appartements et des kiosques qui ressemblent à des tabatières.”
    That’s still Russia though, and it’s curious that there aren’t more references to it from other sources.

  3. Here’s another Russian reference, from one of Pushkin’s letters:
    “I am playing the coquette with Moscow literature as well as I know how. But the Observers hold me in no high esteem. Nobody except Nashchokin loves me. But tintere is my rival with him, and I’m being sacrificed to it.”
    (to his wife Natalia, May 14 and 16, 1836)
    see http://theamericanreader.com/14-may-1836-alexander-pushkin-to-natalia-nokolaevna-pushkina/

  4. No mention here, but it’s an interesting article: Card-playing and Gambling in Eighteenth-century Russia by Paul R. Keenan in European History Quarterly, July 2012.

  5. It’s referred to here as ”tenteret” and said to be a possible source for “tablanet” or “tablić” in MMcM’s list above, still played in the Balkans. The rules do seem like variants on a similar idea.

  6. For what it is worth, on page 251 of this study, there is a mention of tinteret as an alternative name for chito used in Huesca in Aragon, if I understand correctly.

  7. The Prince had mentioned the game in a previous letter to the Empress; but that’s still Russia.

  8. Also still Russia, but it seems like Карточная терминология и жаргон XIX века: Словарь, of which there seem to be downloadable PDFs all over, is worth keeping around for these posts. It quotes both of Pushkin’s letters mentioning тинтере and a list from М. И. Пыляев’s Старое житьё of games in Catherine’s day: рест, вент-эн, кучки, юрдон, гора, ма-као, штосс, три и три, рокамболь, тентере, а-ла-муш.
    Reversi, which she said was replacing tinteret is the card game reversis, not Othello, which was invented 100 years later.

  9. David Parlett, who wrote the Penguin that Ian Preston found and the corresponding Oxford (and one for them on board games that I have), explicitly asks for queries on his web site. He might even know more than Google.

  10. I have sent him a query; thanks for the suggestion!

  11. …And I have already had an answer; he passes on the information about “tablanet” or “tablić” but knows nothing about the origin of the word. As I wrote him, I guess the origin of the name is destined to remain a mystery, unless the good folks at the OED take an interest in it.

  12. Any chance it could be a form of the Fr verb tinter? (The future 1sg, e.g., then generalized to stand for the game?) A reach, to be sure…

  13. Or, of course, the past participle tinteré, as in “gotcha”? (Not a precise rendering, certainly!)

  14. Or Italian? At least that’s where the English speaking world gets its games of that sort.
    The reformatted text of Pyliaev’s work that had that list of games is online, and here is the relevant chapter, which has a discussion of the tension between fashion and the law.
    Another interesting list is quoted in “«Пиковая дама» и тема карт и карточной игры в русской литературе начала XIX века,” breaking games down along the spectrum (I think) of morally positive to fashionable to disreputable, and including Тентере in its third category.

  15. marie-lucie says:

    I have no idea about tintere(t) but I wonder about tablanet, which sounds suspiciously like table nette which would mean ‘clean/empty table’ (implying emptied of the objects which were on it, such as tokens and coins). I did not find this phrase in the TLFI but I found tapis net ‘clean/empty carpet’ under the subheading JEUX (games, gambling), the word tapis referring to the carpet covering the gambling table. Faire tapis net is given as more or less the equivalent of ‘winner take all’. It is quite possible that tapis net became the more readily understandable table nette in some places and passed into other languages as tablanet. The variant tablić could be a blend of table and tapis (or of the local equivalent of French tapis).

  16. Yes, that assumption is given more weight by the rule that one says “tablanette” aloud when removing all the remaining face-up cards, such as by summing them all or with a knave.

  17. marie-lucie says:

    MMcM, thank you, now you know why this “word” is used at that point in the game. Incidentally, in table nette and tapis net the adjective is pronounced identically, like English “net”. The pronunciation of net is one of the few exceptions about final written consonants in (Standard) French, although in this word the pronunciation used to be variable, again according to the TLFI.
    Although I don’t know tintere(t), the same variation in older pronunciation is probably why this word is found with and without a final t. Something just occurred to me: someone above mentioned a possible Italian origin: the painter known as Tintoretto (most likely a nickname originally) is known in French as le Tintoret. It is possible that tintere(t) has something to do with tintoret(to) (the word not the painter). The change of vowel from o to e (most likely schwa) would be quite natural in the evolution of French.

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