Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Like this video? Subscribe to our free daily email and get a new idiom video every day!
An idea or theme that is consistently present in several different areas or things. What is the common thread in these three novels?
hang by a thread
1. Literally, to be attached only by single thread, strand, or something similar. If that button is only hanging by a thread, you're bound to lose it during the course of the day.
2. To be perilously close to failing, dying, or resulting in a bad outcome. After the loss, their chances of getting into the championships are hanging by a thread. Her life hung by a thread as medics rushed her to the hospital.
hang on by a thread
To be perilously close to failing, dying, or resulting in a bad outcome. After the loss, their chances of getting into the championships are hanging on by a thread. Her life hung on by a thread as medics rushed her to the hospital.
lose the drift (of something)
To stop being able to understand or follow something, such as an explanation, because one has become distracted or confused. Sorry, can you back up? I lost the drift of the topic when you started talking about genetic formations. I think this writer is trying to intentionally make us lose the drift so that the narrator becomes untrustworthy.
lose the thread
To stop understanding or following something, such as an explanation, because one has become distracted or confused. Sorry, can you back up? I lost the thread when you started talking about genes. I think this writer is trying to intentionally make us lose the thread so that the story becomes disorienting.
pick up the threads (of something)
1. To begin doing something again after it had previously been stopped or on hiatus. The author states that the novel is an attempt to pick up the threads of an unfinished manuscript found in his late father's desk drawer.
2. To try to return something to normal after a very bad experience interrupts it. We've all been trying to pick up the threads of our lives after the economic crash.
thread (one's) way through (something)
To move carefully between people or things that are numerous and close together. We threaded our way through the crowd to reach the front of the stage. You'll have to thread your way through the clutter in the storeroom to reach the circuit breaker at the back.
thread and thrum
A combination of good and bad. "Thrum" are the bits of thread left on the loom after a finished item has been removed. I know you're disappointed with your minor role in the play, but at least you get to act—you have to accept the thread and thrum.
thread the needle
1. To insert thread through the eye of a needle. You'll need to thread the needle before you can start sewing.
2. To pass something through a narrow space between two things. The quarterback really threaded the needle with that pass between two defenders.
3. A children's game in which the participants stand in a line and hold hands. The person at the end of the line then ducks under the others' linked arms, pulling the rest of the line along with them. Come on, we're playing thread the needle!
thread through (something)
1. To cause something to pass through some small opening or passage in the manner of thread being passed through the eye of a needle. In this usage, a noun or pronoun is used between "thread" and "through." You'll have to thread this wire through a tiny eyelet near the mainframe. Start threading the film through the slot in the machine, and it will automatically begin spooling it for you.
2. To move or traverse through some place that is crowded with people or things. The criminal threaded through the throng of tourists on the boardwalk to escape the police officer who was following him. I had to thread through the cluttered warehouse to find my way to the shelves in the back.
slang Clothes. Wow, those are some stylish new threads! You're never going to land a job wearing those dirty old threads.
See also: thread
common thread (to all this)
Fig. a similar idea or pattern to a series of events. All of these incidents are related. There is a common thread to all this.
hang by a hairand hang by a thread
1. Lit. to hang by something very thin, such as a thread or a hair. The tiniest part of the mobile hung by a thread, the rest are on plastic cords.
2. and hang on by a hair; hang on by a thread Fig. to depend on something very insubstantial; to hang in the balance. Your whole argument is hanging by a thread. John isn't failing geometry, but his passing grade is just hanging by a hair.
thread one's way through something
Fig. to make a path for oneself through a crowded area; to make one's way carefully through a crowded area. The spy threaded his way through the crowd. The bicyclists threaded their way through the cars stopped in traffic.
thread through something
Fig. to travel through a crowded area; to move carefully through an area where there are many obstacles. The spy threaded through the crowd at the palace. The joggers threaded through the shoppers on the sidewalks.
hang by a thread
Also, hang by a hair. Be in a risky or unstable situation, as in His promotion was hanging by a thread, or With the lead actor sick, the success of our play hung by a hair. This expression, already proverbial in the early 1500s, alludes to Damocles, who vexed King Dionysius with constant flattery. The king invited him to a banquet where Damocles found himself seated under a naked sword suspended by a single hair, symbolizing his insecure position at the court.
lose the thread
Cease to follow the sense of what is said. For example, It was such a long story that I soon lost the thread. This expression uses thread in the sense of "something that connects the various points of a narrative." [Mid-1900s]
hang by a thread
1. If something hangs by a thread, it is very likely to fail, although it has not failed yet. It's clear that the ceasefire is hanging by a thread. England's World Cup hopes hang by a thread and they must now rely on the results of the others in their group going their way.
2. If someone's life hangs by a thread, they are seriously ill and are very likely to die. His kidneys had failed and his life was hanging by a thread. Note: This expression may relate to the story of the Sword of Damocles: see the explanation at `sword'.
pick up the threadsresume something that has been interrupted.
hang by a threadbe in a highly precarious state.
lose the (or your) threadbe unable to follow what someone is saying or remember what you are going to say next.
lose the ˈdrift/ˈthread of somethingbe unable to follow a story, discussion, etc. because you cannot understand the relationship between events, facts, etc: I had to go out in the middle of the film and when I came back I found I’d lost the thread entirely. ♢ When they started talking about artificial intelligence, I completely lost the drift of the argument.
hang by a ˈthread/ˈhairbe in a very uncertain situation: After the operation, his life hung by a thread for several hours. ♢ The future of this company hangs by a thread. Unless we get two or three big orders by the end of the month, we’re finished.
the loose ˈends/ˈthreadsthe minor details of something which have still not been dealt with or explained: We’ve almost finished the report. There are just a few loose ends to tie up and then it’ll be ready. ♢ It’s a very unsatisfactory detective story. You know who committed the murder, but there are far too many loose ends.
A loose end/thread is the end of a piece of string or thread that is not tied to anything else.
pick up the ˈthreadsstart something, for example an activity, a relationship, a career, again after a break: It’s not easy for women returning to work to pick up the threads of their earlier careers.
thread your way through (something)move through a place by moving round and between people or things: I threaded my way through the busy streets.
n. clothing. When’d you get new threads, man?
See also: thread
hang by a thread, to
To be in a precarious situation. This expression comes from the story of Damocles, a servile courtier to Dionysius I of Syracuse. Tired of hearing Damocles praise him to the skies, Dionysius invited him to a magnificent banquet. Seated there, Damocles looked up and saw a naked sword suspended over his head by a single hair, whereby the king intended to show his servant the insecurity of his position. By the sixteenth century the story had been converted into a proverb, “It hangs by a hair,” listed in Erasmus’s Adagia (1523), and in the course of time hair was changed to thread.