The King of Swords is the final court card in the Minor Arcana suit of Swords and, as such, represents the maturation of Swords themes—the intellect, communication, and beliefs—in the form of archetypally masculine energy. Symbolically, this can be understood as representing the ability to speak the truth, the capacity to rise above mental confusion, and the maturation of one’s thought processes and intellect.
In western astrological horoscopes, the King of Swords is associated with the zodiac sign Libra. Libra is an air sign (alongside Gemini and Aquarius) and shares the King of Swords’ air element qualities of ambition, leadership, and effective communication.
Where the key meanings of the Major Arcana focus on life’s overarching themes and events, Minor Arcana cards like the King of Swords explore and reveal the more subtle changes impacting one’s day-to-day life and near future. The King of Swords also bears similarities with its sibling court cards the King of Cups, King of Wands, and King of Pentacles, in that all four deal with fulfillment, impact, and experience.
King of Swords Keywords
challenging assumptions, leadership, blend of intellect and intuition, speaking difficult truths
distorted relationship to power, fear of assuming authority, struggling to assert boundaries, rigid thinking
Description of the King of Swords Tarot Card
The King of Swords is the masculine counterpart to the Queen of Swords and represents mastery, maturity, and stability around the activity of the mind and the task of bringing difficult truths to light. Whereas the Queen represents mastery on a more internal or relational level, the King represents the ability to externalize these qualities and act as a guiding force for others.
The King of Swords holds his sword in his right hand, tilted slightly to the right, which emphasizes his connection to the right-brain qualities like logic, rationality, and careful analysis. He’s seated on a throne adorned with angels, butterflies, and crescent moons, which hints at his ability to simultaneously draw on his intuition and instincts when making decisions and assessments.
He’s cloaked in a light blue tunic that blends into the clear blue sky behind him, imparting a serene quality to his presence. The red lining symbolizes his active quality, and his grey cape signifies his ability to be neutral or objective. His crown of butterflies links him to his counterpart, the Queen of Swords, and suggests that his ability to speak the truth is in service of personal transformation.
In the Rider Waite Smith tarot deck, a few clouds dot the otherwise clear sky, and the wind that was present in previous Swords cards appears to have died down. This imparts a sense of calm and stability to the scene, and it symbolizes the King’s self-discipline and ability to be a grounding and stabilizing force for others.
King of Swords Upright Meaning
The King of Swords upright represents a maturation of the intellect, the ability to perceive the truth, and the willingness to give voice to sometimes difficult feelings. It speaks to your clarity of mind and your ability to see things as they are, without illusion or projections. It represents your command of your intellect and your ability to balance your logical, rational mind with your intuition and instincts.
This card speaks to your ability to challenge assumptions, your own as well as others’, through your ability to use logic and analysis in service of discovering the truth. You are not content to build your life around received or conventional wisdom, but rather you carve your own path by carefully considering your true motivations and desires.
The upright King of Swords speaks to your ability to assume a position of leadership and to guide others as a voice of reason. Because of your ability to speak the truth from a calm and grounded place, others trust your judgment and your authority. This card encourages you to believe in your ability to lead, to give voice to your truth, and to balance your intellect with your intuition.
Love and Relationships (Upright Meaning)
In a love tarot reading, the King of Swords card may speak to the need for honest and direct conversations within a relationship. This card encourages you to come from a place of grounded calm and openness and to balance any hot or intense emotions with cool rationality and logic. You can give voice to difficult truths, which make way for healing and facilitate a greater understanding of your relationship.
The upright King of Swords can represent an intellectual approach to your love life and the desire to feel a mental attraction to your partner. It may represent a kind of cool exterior or a difficulty relating to others through the lens of deep emotions and feelings. This card may suggest the need for greater emotional openness or vulnerability in order to form a strong bond.
Love/relationships upright keywords
Career/finance upright keywords
honest conversations, healing through difficult conversations, need for greater openness
gifts of communication, stepping into a position of leadership, giving ideas forms
Career and Finance (Upright Meaning)
The King of Swords upright suggests that you draw on your gifts for speaking, communicating, writing, or sharing your ideas with others in your work. You have a talent for connecting with the truth and putting it into language and for balancing your rational intellect with your intuitive wisdom.
The upright King of Swords can also suggest that you’re stepping into a position of leadership or authority in your work. Your ability to strategize, brainstorm, and give your valuable ideas practical form in the world will serve you well. This card encourages you to own your power, step into a position of authority, and embody the qualities of a fair and grounded leader.
King of Swords Reversed Meaning
The King of Swords reversed can point to a rigidity in your thinking or beliefs. In the upright position of a tarot card reading, this card suggests an ability to balance the intellect with intuition, but in the reverse, the logical function can dominate. You may be power hungry or overly concerned with being right, or are wielding your high standards and opinions over others in a domineering way. This card suggests the need for greater flexibility and openness in your thinking.
The reversed King of Swords can speak to a distorted relationship to power. You may be struggling to find a way to embody a position of authority that balances your intellect with your compassion for others. You may be relying too heavily on a logical frame of analysis or are engaged in black-and-white thinking when the situation requires a more nuanced understanding.
In a tarot spread, the King of Swords reversed can also speak to a fear of stepping into a position of authority. You could be doubting your ability to lead others or have had negative experiences with authority in the past that are impacting your relationship to it in the present. You may need to work on asserting your boundaries and connecting to your inner confidence in order to embody this new position.
Love and Relationships (Reversed Meaning)
The King of Swords reversed can represent the avoidance of difficult but necessary conversations within a relationship. This card suggests that there are important truths that need to surface, and it is an encouragement to express these truths with compassion and calm. When you are able to give voice to your true feelings, you allow for healing and repair in your relationship.
The King of Swords reversed may also speak to an intellectual or mental rigidity within a relationship. You may be stubbornly fixed on how you believe things should be done or are overly attached to the way that you think things should happen. This card asks if you can find more flexibility in your approach so that both parties can be heard and understood.
Love/relationships reversed keywords
Career/finance reversed keywords
avoidance of difficult conversations, need to express one’s truth, stubbornness, rigidity
fear of assuming a position of authority, self-doubt, overly rigid approach to leadership
Career and Finance (Reversed Meaning)
The reversed King of Swords can speak to a fear of embodying a position of authority due to self-doubt. You may be questioning if you have the ability to lead others, make sound decisions, or bring your ideas out into the world. This card encourages you to connect to your inner authority and power in order to step into this position of leadership.
The reversed King of Swords may also indicate that you are taking an overly rigid stance in your approach to leadership. You may be relying too heavily on logic and rationality when a more holistic approach would be beneficial. If your style of leadership has become calcified with outworn ideas or attitudes, this card encourages you to open yourself up to new ways of thinking.