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Give Someone the Third Degree: Origin and Meaning

To interrogate or question someone intensely or forcefully.

Give someone the third degree This idiom is generally used to insinuate that someone is trying to get as much information out of you, interrogation style.

The image that immediately comes to mind is that of a man sitting behind a desk, shining a bright light in your face in order to extort as much information from you as possible.

However, this is far from the truth as it is believed that the expression derives either from the criminal justice code, when illustrating the various degrees of murder, or from the Freemasons, an all-male fellowship which holds extravagant secret ceremonies, and whose members, in order to become “third degree members” or “Master Masons”, have to undergo vigorous questioning.

– When I got home late last night, my mum gave me the third degree.

– Careful, if you don’t hand in the report on time, you’ll get the third degree.

– It was clearly a case of mistaken identity, but the police still gave him the third degree.
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