'Silver cord' - English phrase

James Brandon

Senior Member
English + French - UK
I have heard 'silver cord' in relation to the medical field, I believe, but I am not sure. Has anyone heard it in that kind of sense and, if so, what does it mean? Also, I have found two other sets of meaning: (a) It would refer to the emotional bond between mother and offspring (cf mention in the Bible?); (b) It would have other - perhaps derived - meanings of a more mystic nature (eg the link between a person's body and his or her soul, which is only broken at death). Can you confirm, and/or are there other meanings? I thought the expression rare but Google throws up a lot of references to it on the web, so everyone must have been using it and I had never realised...

  • jimreilly

    Senior Member
    American English
    I think there was an article in the New York Times the other day about the use of the anitbiotic properties of silver in traditional medicine, but whether that has anything to do with silvers cords I do not remember--I scanned the article in 1.2 seconds and don't remember anything else about it.


    Senior Member
    American English
    Biblically it refers to ones life in Ecclesiastes.

    Ecclesiastes 12:5-7 (NIV)

    5 when men are afraid of heights
    and of dangers in the streets;
    when the almond tree blossoms
    and the grasshopper drags himself along
    and desire no longer is stirred.
    Then man goes to his eternal home
    and mourners go about the streets.

    6 Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
    or the golden bowl is broken;
    before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
    or the wheel broken at the well,
    7 and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
    and the spirit returns to God who gave it.


    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    The "silver cord" is the umbilicus-- not obvious I guess, unless you've seen one. They are the same glistening color and texture as the tough protective tegumentary membrane that surrounds and separates skeletal muscle. The culinary term for that tissue is "silver skin," and the resemblance to silver is even more obvious in the sheathing of living or recently-living red muscle.

    Just as the distinctive red shows faintly through the "silver skin," the bluish contents of an umbilicus at birth lend that color to it-- until it is cut, and the silveriness becomes more obvious. This tissue is very ephemeral, however, and beomes parchment-like inside an hour's time.

    Just do a google search using "silver skin" + umbilicus for ample references and explanations, many of them from Tantric Buddhism where the umbilicus is a symbol of Pranal flow and the connection between the Astral and the physical.


    Senior Member
    Portuguese & Spanish
    I know another context for it. It's said that our body and our soul are linked by a silver cord, and that it breaks when we die.

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    Thank you for explanations, more particularly yours, Foxfirebrand. So, as I understand, 'silver cord' really has 3 meanings:-
    (a) The umbilical cord - and it was not clear to me that the expression was actually used for the physical description of it;
    (b) The emotional bond between mother and child(ren) - a metaphorical meaning obviously derived from the literal meaning above (and this appears to be the meaning given most often, from what I have seen);
    (c) The spiritual/mystic link between one's body and one's soul - a 2nd metaphorical meaning derived from the other two, presumably.

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