Three of Swords Tarot Card Meaning

By Charrette Vachon

The Three of Swords tends to represent difficulty or hardship on an emotional level. Unhappiness, grief, sadness, and depression are all associated with this card–likely as a result of a breakup, trouble with your career, or even a run of (what feels like) bad luck.

To get past the situation this card points to, you’ll need to learn whatever you can from the source(s) of the difficulty as well as give yourself time and space to heal; our darkest moments often provide us with the greatest lessons.

  • Element: Air
  • Planet: Saturn
  • Astrological sign: Libra
  • Key dates: October 3 to 12

Symbols and Associations

You don’t have to stretch your imagination to understand what the Three of Swords represents. A heart with three swords plunged through it shows a very literal image of heartache, and the cloudy, rainy background–reminiscent of tears caused by an emotional storm–inspires gloomy sad thoughts. The three swords point to the possibility of multiple sources of pain; the clouds confirm that, indeed, when it rains it pours. The clouds also offer some hope, as we know all storms end and the sun will shine once again.

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A Three of Swords Personality

Emotional baggage: A Three of Swords personality will suffer from a lot of it. Their past painful experiences have made them incredibly sensitive and prone to hurt feelings. Their abandonment issues have turned them into jealous, overly clingy partners who long to be free spirits.

Loving a Three of Swords personality can be challenging; they are incredibly wary of opening up and being their true selves, which strongly conflicts with their inability to feel complete without a partner. Their past trauma has created the person they are today–and usually not in a positive way.

The Three of Swords: Right-side up Meanings

This card popping up in a spread likely means you are or will be dealing with hurt from loss or betrayal–or both. You also may be confused or unclear about the true source of the feelings since there could be many.

Matters of the Heart

For the single seeker, the Three of Swords represents difficulty with moving on from the pain of one or more past relationships. You must deal with your grief to properly move on. This card can also imply a lonely heart, full of feelings of alienation as well as more general love-life troubles, such as strong insecurity, general strife, and jealousy.

For the partnered seeker, the Three of Swords can point to relationship issues that must be addressed immediately in order for the partnership to survive. If they are not addressed, they will likely lead to separation and possibly divorce. You and your partner must be totally open and honest in your communication so as to discern the issues, their causes, any resentments stemming from them, and a path forward.

Work Life

Since the Three of Swords is a card of division and conflict, all is not well with your employment. This could stem from job loss, issues with coworkers, or work you find no pleasure in doing. It could also represent resentment regarding insufficient pay or status.

Though challenging in miserable situations, a positive outlook is a must. You must be 100% honest with yourself and your coworkers as you search for clarity and solutions. Focus on ways to see the issue(s) from different perspectives and discern where things began to go wrong. Once you’ve discovered the root of the problem(s), you can discern the best fix(es).


Odds are, your bank account balance isn’t your favorite thing to look at right now. Bills and debts may be causing you immense stress during an already tough time. Do not lose hope. Instead, focus on creating (or discovering) a step-by-step plan to get your finances back on track.

The end of a relationship or job loss is probably the source of your financial issues, so you must make sure to practice self-care; give yourself grace when life seems to be one big struggle. YOU are what is most important.


You are sad and disillusioned by what feels like a lack of control over your own body and mind.

It could be that the cause of a long illness has been discovered and diagnosed. And while answers are great, this diagnosis is likely one you’d never even considered, so it has you feeling like a shocked mess.

The only way out is through, so focus on ways to make it easier for you to handle the situation. Meditation, self-reflection, journaling, and therapy will be of great help in clearing your mind and getting through this challenging situation.

The Three of Swords: Upside Down Meanings

When you find the Three of Swords in a reverse position, it can mean that you’ve started doing the work necessary to heal your life and keep it healthy, and this has lessened some of your pain. Being able to focus on something other than pain will give you the ability to regain control over the various aspects of your life again.

Matters of the Heart

For seekers already in a relationship, this card reversed can indicate reconciling with your partner. What you once thought was a sure path to things ending can U-turn into a path of forgiveness and healing due to clear, honest communication and acceptance of responsibilities.

For single seekers, the reversed Three of Swords points to finally healing from a breakup. Where there once was only hurt and anger, there is now peace and calm. You may even be able to communicate with your past partner(s) in a civil manner.

This growth and healing means a better starting point for any new relationships.

Work Life

The upside down Three of Swords means your career is looking up. Work has become a more enjoyable environment–mentally, physically, or both. Your stress levels are way down, and those you’ve had conflicts with at work have either gotten past them or left. Your determination to fix the problems that made your work life miserable has ended in success and others noticing the effort you put in.


Your financial burdens are starting to lighten. The steps you’ve taken to resolve your money issues are bearing fruit.

You may have had to make some major changes to your spending habits or humbly request help from loved ones to get started on a better path, and those around you have seen and admired your efforts. Don’t stop now!


After a dark period of pain and suffering, you’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel; your health is finally beginning to improve. Focusing on your mental and physical health has paid off, positively affecting every section of your life.

Though things aren’t all wine and roses yet, you make progress each day. Continuing on in your current manner will eventually lead you to great health.

The Three-Card Spread: Past, Present, and Future

Drawing the Three of Swords in the past position means you can look back in your life and clearly see the root of your sorrow. And though you’ve continued moving forward in your life, you still feel great hurt and loss when you think about certain past events.

In the present position, this card likely stands for an impending emotional upset or upheaval. Your past trauma may rear its ugly head in new and unexpected ways. If you are fortunate enough to lack major trauma in your life, this card could represent pain you caused to others coming back to bite you. Karma is a thing.

The Three of Swords in the future position is a warning. You need to look closely at your health, relationships, finances, and work life to figure out what adjustments are needed to ensure future success.

Card Combinations of Note

All cards can have their inherent meanings challenged, changed, or increased when paired with others. Some significant examples are included below.

Combined with Strength

If you happen to pull the Three of Swords, one card to hope you’ll also pull is Strength. This combination leads to recovery from the pain and trauma you’ve experienced. Strength points to your newly discovered ability to rid your life of negative people and situations. Your ability to now do this with ruthless efficiency will dumbfound those negative people and serve to prevent them from causing you additional grief.

Combined with Justice

When this combination shows up, it means that some branch of the justice system is the cause of your sorrow. It could mean a loved one going to prison or losing a court case that has already negatively affected your life. Justice is normally a positive card, but it delves into negativity when combined with the Three of Swords.

Combined with the Magician

Though you might feel like all is spinning out of control, this combination wants you to know you have more control over things than you think. The Magician lets you know that you are not a victim in this situation but a fighter. You’ll wrest control of your life back no matter the pain you are forced to endure.

Is the Three of Swords a Yes or a No?

The general negativity of the card’s tone and meanings of loss, sadness, upset, and suffering due to an emotionally significant loss clearly mark this card’s response as a NO.