What does путоводная нить mean? Here's the sentence:

"Путеводной нитью нам служила маленькая тропинка проложенная китайскими охотниками и искателями женьшеня."

1 Answer 1


This is literally a guiding thread and refers to the small path they were following. In English, we'd most likely call this our guide, or perhaps even our guiding light.

The instrumental here can be translated "as our guiding thread (served the small path...)".

  • 8
    In addition to CocoPop's answer, this expression comes from the myth of Theseus, where Ariadne gave Theseus a ball of thread before he went into the Labyrinth. He tied one end of the thread to the doorpost, so afterwards he was able to find the way back by following the thread.
    – Litho
    Oct 31, 2023 at 8:47
  • @Litho How very interesting!
    – CocoPop
    Oct 31, 2023 at 12:20
  • 5
    This expression also resonates with slavic folk tales, where a (magic) ball of thread is often given to a hero by an enchantress/magician/elder, to guide him to some arcane destination point. The hero is supposed to drop the ball to the ground and let it roll, and then follow the ball/thread. Random googled image: shorturl.at/buGR5
    – Igor G
    Nov 2, 2023 at 23:09
  • @IgorG That is too cool!
    – CocoPop
    Nov 3, 2023 at 0:12

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