Meaning: Lengthy and pointed questioning.
Example: When I come home late my wife gives me the third degree.
Origin: “The third degree” evokes images of lengthy police interrogation under bright lights, rubber hoses, and without the benefits of counsel.
This phrase origin can be found within the Masonic Lodge. Within the lodge there are 3 degrees; the Entered Apprentice, the Fellowcraft and the Master Mason. To become a Third-Degree or Master Mason, the highest rank, one must submit to questioning. The Mason’s questioning for the third-degree was known to be an intense ordeal, frightening and unpleasant. Additionally, it is more physically challenging that the first two degrees. The term has come to be used for any long an arduous questioning or interrogation.
Thanks to Nathan Thomas, Toby O’Connor Morse, and Kymberli Drummond
or . . .
This actually derived by referring to the process (or one of the processes) of becoming a third degree mason… not from the potential to be charged with third degree murder.