5 of Swords: Tarot Card Meaning

By Lauren Williams
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5 of Swords Keywords


  • Conflict
  • Disagreement
  • Winning at all costs
  • Realization of defeat
  • Hostility


  • Reconciliation
  • Making amends
  • Avoiding confrontation
  • Admitting wrongdoings
  • Lingering resentment

5 of Swords Essential Meanings Snapshot


The 5 of Swords in its upright context is often associated with themes of ego-driven conflict, tension, and betrayal. It provides sharp reminders of the losses that can accompany victories, particularly those won at the expense of others. Its energies resonate with self-interest, aggressive competition, and personal gain, often presenting challenging scenarios where strategies could lead to detrimental effects on relationships or overall peace of mind.


On the contrary, when marked in a reversed position, this card signifies recovery, making amends, and maintaining a sense of resignation. It offers lessons about finding grace and humility in defeat while courageously waving the white flag of resolution in contentious situations. It encourages individuals to seek peace beyond conflicts, fostering forgiveness, necessary for healing and personal growth.

5 of Swords Description

Upon viewing the 5 of Swords Tarot card, observer eyes are greeted by an overwhelming scene of emotional conflict and rivalry. At the center of the image is a man apparent in satisfaction as he beholds two swords tightly gripped in his hands. Additionally, he also seems responsible for two other swords that lay discarded at his feet, indicating acquired victory.

A man carrying swords as the 5 of swords tarot card.

The smug look on his face notably contrasts with the dejected figures in the background who, despite their defeat, still have their swords intact. The sky above them is turbulent and cloudy, suggesting a recent battle or ongoing conflicts. A turbulent sea in the backdrop brings further complexity to the scene, indicating unsteady emotions or tumultuous times.

This detail-heavy image paints a picture of triumph, but it’s also a sober reminder that one’s victory can be another’s defeat, bringing forth the dilemmas of conflict, victory, and loss.

Beyond the Surface: Symbolic Meanings

This section explores the rich tapestry of symbolic meanings associated with the 5 of Swords. Each card within the Tarot holds a wealth of underlying significance, shaped by a multitude of factors, from the illustration on the card to the historical and cultural contexts that inform it. What lies below the surface of this particular card?

  • Single Sword in the Foreground: This prominent element symbolizes the victory gained by the figure holding it. However, it’s interesting to note that the sword is pointed downwards, suggesting that this triumph may not be one to celebrate, but might stem from aggressive or ego-driven actions. This could be a subtle reminder to examine our own actions and motives.
  • Main Figure: Holding two swords, this character symbolizes power acquired through uncivil means. The figure’s satisfied look can be interpreted as the joy of gaining control, but also warns of the fleeting nature of such instances of dominance.
  • Figures in the Background: These figures, moving away from the scene, represent the defeated or those harmed by the pursuit of victory at any cost. Their presence serves as a reminder of the consequences of our actions on others.
  • Stormy Sky and Sea: These elements signify turbulence, conflict, and emotional unrest. This further emphasizes the aggressive nature of the situation depicted on the card.
  • Mountainous Landscape: It symbolizes obstacles, hardships, and the long, often difficult, journey towards personal evolution and maturity.

Through these symbols, the 5 of Swords offers intricate insights into the outer and inner dynamics of conflict and victory. It’s a card that demands mindful consideration and introspection, prompting us to ponder over our methods of handling conflicts, and our true definition of ‘victory’.

Dual Perspectives: Upright & Reversed

Upright 5 of Swords

The upright position of the 5 of Swords card signifies conflict, tension, and loss. It typically suggests unresolved disputes and shows the price of pride, indicating that one might have gained at the expense of others. The gain reflected in this position is not fulfilling and often surrounded by guilt or regret. It’s a reminder of the emptiness that comes with winning battles but losing relationships, suggesting that sometimes victory is not as sweet as it seems.

Reversed 5 of Swords

In contrast, the reversed 5 of Swords points towards reconciliation and compromise. It suggests that the period of conflict is coming to an end and it’s time to make amends or move on. Being a sign of recovering energy, it advocates for forgiveness, burying the hatchet, and healing past wounds. Here, the focus is not on who won, but learning from the experience and striving towards harmony. Nevertheless, the reversed card can also indicate a defeat or surrender, implying that sometimes it is better to let go than persist in a purposeless fight.

The 5 of Swords in both positions provides lessons on understanding and managing conflicts—whether to press on with our ego at stake, or to find closure and learn from experiences.

5 of Swords in Life Scenarios

The 5 of Swords card symbolizes various aspects of life such as self-discovery, career decisions, relationships and life choices. Below are different scenarios showing how this card influences various life situations.

Growth & Self-Discovery

The 5 of Swords reflects a period of resilience and self-discovery. This is the time when your mental strength is tested. You might experience conflicts and struggles but these are part of your growth and self-development. This card encourages you to learn from these tough situations and discover more about your own strengths and weaknesses. It pushes you to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself in ways you’ve never done before.

Career and Creativity

In a career context, the 5 of Swords implies that there may be competition or conflict in your workplace. However, this card suggests you to stand firm and assertive. It can also imply overcoming obstacles with creative solutions. Use your ingenuity and resourcefulness to navigate through this period. It can also point out the need to make tough decisions – it could mean leaving a hostile work environment or breaking free from a role that doesn’t fit your career ambitions.

Relationships & Bonds

The 5 of Swords in a relationship context, usually signifies conflicts and disagreements between partners. It is about winning battles but often at the expense of the relationship itself. This card advises individuals to reassess their approach in solving issues within their relationships. It encourages finding common ground instead of insisting on being right. The card also focuses on improving communication and developing a better understanding of your partner.

To read more about the 5 of Swords in the context of feelings, read our 5 of Swords as Feelings article.

Choices & Life Decisions

Finally, the 5 of Swords is concerned with life choices. It represents a time of challenging decisions and speaks of the choices we must make to move forward. This card advises not to make decisions hastily or without consideration of the repercussions. It suggests taking time to think thoroughly and weighing all the options before making a significant decision. This card is also a reminder that every choice comes with its own set of challenges and victories, and it is important to be prepared for the outcomes.

To read more about the 5 of Swords when making decisions, read our 5 of Swords: Yes or No article.

5 of Swords from Past to Present

The 5 of Swords tarot card, like the rest of the deck, can trace its roots back to the mid-15th century where they were primarily used for playing games, until the late 18th century, when they were adopted for psychic divination and spiritual readings.

Visual Evolution

Historically, the card has seen varied interpretations. In the traditional Rider-Waite design, which dates back to the early 20th century, the card depicts a man carrying three swords and walking away from two other swords, on a battlefield. He seems violent and boastful. Several interpretations focus on the aftermath of conflict, with the character in the image appearing victorious but lonely.

In the modern renditions, while general themes remain the same, the imagery varies. The Morgan-Greer version presents two defeated figures in the background, the man in the forefront, clutching the swords tightly, appears smug, emphasizing the theme of vanity and hollow victory.

Historical Significance

Historically, the 5 of Swords card symbolises defeat, conflict, and loss. It could signify a bitter victory where the consequence heavily outweighed the benefits. With the evolution of tarot, the 5 of Swords now represents challenging situations and calls for a measured response rather than knee-jerk reactions. The card continues to serve as a reminder to choose battles wisely to understand whether the cost of victory is worth the battle itself.

Synergistic Card Combinations

The interpretation of Tarot often relies on the synergy between cards in a spread. The 5 of Swords, a card often associated with conflict and tension, can take on new meanings and nuances when paired with other cards. Understanding these interactions can offer deeper insights into your readings.

5 of Swords with The Tower

When the 5 of Swords lands with The Tower card, it signifies an imminent and dramatic shift. This combination might hint at a volatile situation about to blow up. The conflict suggested by the 5 of Swords is likely to be the catalyst for this sudden change. Expect foundational upheavals but also opportunities for new beginnings.

5 of Swords and The Moon

The Moon card, representing subconscious aspects and hidden fears, combined with 5 of Swords, indicates that unresolved conflicts could be acting as barriers to personal growth. This combination might suggest that internal struggles or hidden anxieties are fueling your conflicts, making it crucial to focus on self-reflective activities.

5 of Swords and The Lovers

The Lovers card is associated with harmony, love, and decision-making. When combined with 5 of Swords, this suggests that a decision might lead to contention within romantic or close relationships. The cards jointly advise diplomatically handling disagreements and making choices with the sensibilities of all involved parties in mind.

5 of Swords and Wheel of Fortune

When the 5 of Swords combines with the Wheel of Fortune, it might mean a conflict or disagreement could lead to an unexpected turn of events. While the difficulty implied by 5 of Swords might seem negative, the Wheel of Fortune assures that these changes often pave the way for new and exciting opportunities. However, timing is a key factor in how these events unfold.

5 of Swords and Strength

Strength represents courage, patience, control, and compassion. When it is paired with the 5 of Swords, it signifies that strength and resilience would be needed to overcome disputes or difficulties. It encourages the querent to approach conflicts with patience and understanding to reach a resolution without causing further damage.

Introspection & Meditation

Meditation and the 5 of Swords

Meditative practices can provide richer perspectives on tarot card meanings, especially the 5 of Swords. When engaging in meditation, visualize the visuals portrayed in the card. Immerse yourself in the imagery of a victor standing tall while others stoop in defeat. This card highlights conflicts and struggles, suggestive of inner battles.

Introspective Practices

Personal reflections bring further clarity. The 5 of Swords often symbolizes disruptive mindsets or situations. Attempt to identify the sources of such distress. Through self-reflection, you may discover internal battles hindering personal growth. Recognizing them is the first step toward overcoming them.

Reflective Meditation

Combine meditation and introspection for a deeper dive. Notice any emotions or thoughts surfacing during your meditative session. Afterward, reflect on them, align them with the 5 of Swords, and seek to understand what they convey about your inner conflicts.

Mindfulness Meditation

Lastly, the practice of mindfulness meditation can help envisioning solutions. It brings focus to the present and minimizes distractions, allowing you to see how best to resolve conflicts. This method can be especially illuminating when contemplating the 5 of Swords.

Applying such meditations and introspective strategies can bring profound insights into the 5 of Swords and its relevance in your life. The journey to overcome conflicts often begins with recognizing them, a process greatly facilitated by these spiritual practices.


The 5 of Swords Tarot card is associated with conflict, tension, and betrayal, reminding us of the costs of victories won at others’ expense. In the reversed position, there are lessons about recovery, making amends, and humility in defeat.

Symbolically, the card incorporates elements like a downward-pointed sword, figures in the foreground and background, a stormy sky and sea, and a mountainous landscape to depict conflict and victory dynamics.

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Lauren holding a crystal ball in her hands.


Lauren Williams
Lauren merges ancient wisdom with modern insights, offering a fresh perspective on life's mysteries. She's passionate about guiding individuals through the world of astrology, lunar cycles, numerology, and tarot. When she's not charting the stars or reading tarot, she enjoys getting out in nature, hikes and yoga.