Whist is a descendant of the 16th century game of trump or ruff. Whist replaced the popular variant of trump known as Ruff and Honours. The game takes its name from the 17th Century whist (or wist) meaning quiet, silent, attentive, which is the root of the modern wistful
According to Barrington, Whist was first played on scientific principles by a party of gentlemen who frequented the Crown Coffee House in Bedford Row, London, around 1728. Edmond Hoyle, suspected to be a member of this group, began to tutor wealthy young gentlemen in the game and published A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist in 1742. It became the standard text and rules for the game for the next hundred years and led to the game becoming fashionable.
In 1862 Cavendish published The Laws and Principles of Whist: by Cavendish which became the standard text. There were many subsequent editions and enlargements of this work using the simpler spine title Cavendish On Whist. By this time Whist was governed by elaborate and rigid rules covering the laws of the game, etiquette and play which took time to study and master.
In the 1890s, a variant known as Bridge Whist became popular which eventually evolved into Contract Bridge. The traditional game of Whist survives at social events called whist drives.
There are many modern variants of Whist played for fun.