Short meaning: The King of Swords refers to an intelligent man who is often also an authority figure. He may be a professional, or someone who contributes to the legal system or government. He is known and respected for his integrity and high standards.
Full meaning: When representing a person, kings are usually grown men, typically middle-aged or older. Swords are an air sign and often represent intellectual energy and conflict, change, or action.
The King of Swords is highly intelligent, often a professional, a lawyer, or involved in law. He may work for the government, or may be a teacher, an employer, or an authority figure.
Words typically found in card meanings for the King of Swords include rational, logical, analytical, mature, objective, capable, respected, patriarchal, honest, fair, honorable, exacting, high standards, and he follows the rules. Sometimes descriptions trend toward the negative, portraying the king as too harsh, but those characteristics are usually associated with card reversals.
Hansson (see Sources) described the King of Swords as "A man with many hard-won achievements and accomplishments. An expert in law, military, and government. Proven leadership ability and position of authority. Matter-of-fact and to-the-point, practical advice. Possessive and protective of what is his own and what or who he believes to be his. Tendency toward harsh, quick judgements, but not closed-minded or unreasonable. Interested in keeping on top of skills and continually learning." (Hansson, p. 109)
Greer provides a detailed profile: "The King of Swords is 'on duty.' He is a stern judge, an unflinching soldier, an editor, a surgeon, judge, or a philosopher... Like the other Kings, with this impartial arbiter of truth and justice, "the buck stops here." He demonstrates the external expertise of the Air signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius). As such he is a decision maker who bases his choices on logic and rationality, ethics, principles, and facts. At best he strives for honesty, fairness, strict and accurate definitions, and absolute rules and guidellines. This card can indicate the handling of legal matters, judgments, and negotiations, or police and military affairs. You or someone you know could be upholding standards or schedules, or be critiquing a work with an eye to catching any flaw, mistake, or weakness. You may be operating under strict requirements. You could set limits, and if necessary deprive yourself of something desired in order to honor a principle or decision. You face matters squarely and dispassionately, seeking to maximize efficiency, precision, and order. Discipline is essential. You evaluate carefully the consequences of planned actions. If required you could sever or cut off whatever is unnecessary, even if it entailes making personal sacrifices. As a parent, this King has high standards and teaches that there is a consequence for every action. As a spouse he can be intelligent, honest, principled but also critical and demanding.
"TRADITIONAL: Man of the cloth or lawyer. Judge, councilor, senator, businessman, physician, jurist, litigant. Jurisprudence. Power, command, intelligence. Force." (Greer, p. 202)
According to Fontana, "The King of Swords is the most powerful of the four kings, and symbolizes the determination and energy to sweep impediments aside in the interests of truth and justice. He rides forcefully toward us, defending his kingdom behind him. The passion of the King of Swords can be a force for good but can also manifest itself at times as overreaction and anger." (Fontana, p. 189)