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thread of life (plural threads of life)

  1. (Greek mythology) A metaphor for the lifespan of an individual, as generated by Clotho, measured out by Lachesis and terminated by Atropos
  2. (poetic) DNA
    • 1998, Kari Cantell, The Story of Interferon: The Ups and Downs in the Life of a Scientist, ISBN 9810231482, page vii:
      His book also tells of the intense competition between various research workers and groups during the years in which the secrets of "the spiral thread of life" were finally unravelled.
    • 2002, Gustav Joseph Victor Nossal & ‎Ross Leon Coppel, Reshaping Life: Key Issues in Genetic Engineering, ISBN 0522849946, page 1:
      For this reason DNA has been termed the thread of life; the progressive elucidation of its structure and function have rightly been biology's central preoccupation since 1950.
    • 2003, Stephen S. Hall, Merchants of Immortality: Chasing the Dream of Human Life Extension., ISBN 0547561571, page 1:
      The double helix is often described as a kind of gossamer thread of life, with genes arrayed along the thread, but in its natural habitat, the chromosome, the thread gets wrapped around pebbly little bits of protein called histone, so it's much more like small balls of twine, one after another, packed together in a bumpy amalgam.
  3. The link of inheritance from past to present
    • 2013, Mike Doiron, Thread of Life: An Adoption Story, ISBN 1475982151, page 219:
      While some adoptive parents may tend to try and shy away of such discussions with their adopted children, it is very important for them to understand that a desire to connect to that thread of life that nonadoptees are granted is a natural instinct -- and should not be viewed as a threat to their family.
    • 1953 September 7, “The Endless Thread of Life”, in LIFE magazine, volume 35, number 10, page 56:
      DOWN the unimaginable corridors of geologic time the thread of life has passed from generation to generation, ever varying but unbroken.
    • 1991, David Warren Saxe, Social Studies in Schools: A History of the Early Years, ISBN 0791407756, page 64:
      The most important lesson of the full year course in ancient history was the inculcation of the sweep of time: that a nation's life was not lived in isolation from its neighbors, that the acts of men have great and grave influences on their own times and for the future, and that the thread of life beginning in ancient times extends to the present.
  4. destiny, fate
    • 1591, William Shakespeare, “The Second Part of Henry the Sixt, with the Death of the Good Duke Hvmfrey”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act 4, (please specify the scene number in lowercase Roman numerals)]:
      Argo, their thread of life is spun.
    • 1897, Curtin, Jeremiah, Quo vadis : a narrative of the time of Nero, Boston: Little, Brown, translation of original by Henryk Sienkiewicz, OCLC 682476882, page 274:
      [] he yearned more and more every moment, for love was stronger than he, and had seized his soul altogether, even when he was at the house of Aulus. The Parcae weave the thread of life for others; but love, yearning, and melancholy had woven it for him.
    • 1992, Løvlie, Lars, “Postmodernism and subjectivity”, in Steinar Kvale, editor, Psychology and postmodernism, London: Sage, ISBN 9780803986046, page 120:
      The problem of modern subjectivity may be elucidated by way of three images: the 'thread of life', the 'circle' and the 'core'. As for the first image, tradition will have it that the perfect development of individual life follows a continuous course from origin to end, [] this is the image of a more or less consistent theme unfolding throughout a life; historical time being the harmonizer. [] This is the idea of continuity, linking the origin (arche) and the goal (telos) of life, [] The postmodernist [] wants to replace it by the image of the severed thread, by the discontinuous and by the fragmentary which never reaches a final fulfilment.
    • For more examples of usage of this term, see Citations:thread of life.