c.1400, "playing card," from Middle French carte (14c.), from Latin charta "leaf of paper, tablet," from Greek khartes "layer of papyrus," probably from Egyptian. Form influenced after 14c. by Italian carta (see chart (n.)).
Sense of "playing cards" also is oldest in French. Sense in English extended by 1590s to similar small, flat, stiff bits of paper. Meaning "printed ornamental greetings for special occasions" is from 1869. Application to clever or original persons (1836, originally with an adjective, e.g. smart card) is from the playing-card sense, via expressions such as sure card "an expedient certain to attain an object" (c.1560).
Card table is from 1713. Card-sharper is 1859.