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.

1860–65 Unabridged


verb (used with object), third-degreed, third-degreeing.
to subject to the third degree.
of or relating to the third degree.

1895–1900, Americanism Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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World English Dictionary
third degree
informal torture or bullying, esp used to extort confessions or information

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

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 Fr. (1832); in Amer.Eng., 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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Example sentences
When patients suffer this much destruction--which is as severe as a third-degree burn--they need skin grafts.
All four were arrested and charged with third-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
They questioned him with some ferocity, and later he was apparently given a third-degree beating.
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