Learn English – Does English use “red thread” as expression for theme


In Swedish the expression "röd tråd" (literally "red thread") is used to describe that something follows a theme. For instance, if a piece of text has a "red thread", it's written with a consistent thought throughout the text.

The expression originates from the Greek mythology where King Theseus found his way out of the Minotaur's labyrinth by following a "red thread".

It could also be derived from that formerly a red thread were found twisted in some cordage belonging to the English Navy. In a figurative sense first used by Goethe in his work Wahlverwandschaften.

Is this used in the same way in English or is there another expression that is more commonly used?

Best Answer

The word thread itself has such a sense.

From Merriam-Webster, sense 3b:

A continuing element <a thread of melancholy marked all his writing>

I do not recall ever seeing 'red thread' used in English in such a sense.

In Chinese legend, a red thread of destiny is tied by the gods "around the ankles of those that are to meet one another in a certain situation or help each other in a certain way".

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