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"The third degree"

Posted by Smokey Stover on February 18, 2006

In Reply to: "The third degree" posted by Bruce Kahl on February 18, 2006

: : Does anyone know the origin of the phrase
: : "The third degree"

: The phrase means an intense interrogation, usually by the police.

: I am not 100% on this but I always thought the phrase referred to the third degree ceremony of Free Masons.

: The third degree is the highest of all the degrees or levels of membership in masonry.

: The third degree ceremony consists of an interrogation of how well you know your mysticism.

It would be a time-saver if Mr. Kirke had given us some context. Among crimes, "in the third degree" or "of the third degree" means the least serious variety of the particular crime. In other areas, the third degree is on an ascending scale. A third degree burn is the worst designation in use (except "dead of burns"), and means that the burn has destroyed the entire depth of the skin down to the subcutaneous tissues. The "third degree" referring to interrogation (usually police interrogation) with mental or physical pain appears in U.S. literature from 1880 forwards. I have never seen any description of the first or second degree, of course. Mr. Kahl has given a good account of the third degree in Masonry. SS