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[thurd-di-gree] /ˈθɜrd dɪˈgri/
verb (used with object), third-degreed, third-degreeing.
to subject to the third degree.
of or relating to the third degree.
Origin of third-degree
An Americanism dating back to 1895-1900

third degree

intensive questioning or rough treatment, especially by the police, in order to get information or a confession.
the degree of master mason in Freemasonry.
First recorded in 1860-65 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for third-degree
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I had one terrible time in third-degree stuff and have put him away for the night.

    Dreamy Hollow

    Sumner Charles Britton
British Dictionary definitions for third-degree

third degree

(informal) torture or bullying, esp used to extort confessions or information
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for third-degree

third degree


"intense interrogation by police," 1900, probably a reference to Third Degree of master mason in Freemasonry (1772), the conferring of which included an interrogation ceremony. Third degree as a measure of severity of burns (most severe) is attested from 1866, from French (1832); in American English, as a definition of the seriousness of a particular type of crime (the least serious type) it is recorded from 1865.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for third-degree

third degree

n phr,n

Long and harsh, even brutal, questioning, esp by the police: The Third Degree, A Detailed and Appalling Expose´ of Police Brutality/ He's giving me a third about some gun he says I had

[1900+; origin uncertain]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with third-degree

third degree

Intensive questioning or rough treatment used to obtain information or a confession, as in The detectives gave her the third degree, or Jim gave her the third degree when she came home so late. This term comes from freemasonry, where a candidate receives the third or highest degree, that of master mason, upon passing an intensive test. Dating from the 1770s, the phrase was transferred to other kinds of interrogation in the late 1800s.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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