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Nov 1, 2006
This week's theme
Ordinal words

This week's words
fifth column
fourth estate
third degree
second fiddle
first water

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third degree

(thurd di-GREE) Pronunciation Sound Clip

noun: Intensive questioning using rough treatment.

adjective: Pertaining to the third degree.

verb: To subject to such treatment.

[There are many folk etymologies regarding possible origins of this term but lexicographers are not certain. The more popular of the stories suggests it came from the third degree in freemasonry that was the most difficult to achieve. One aspiring to that rank was supposed to undergo intense questioning and grilling.]

"John Dingell loved nothing more than to call witnesses before his committee and give them the third degree."
Thomas Bray; Do Elephants Have Ideas?; The New York Sun; Oct 25, 2006.

See more usage examples of third degree in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

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Many a man thinks he is buying pleasure, when he is really selling himself to it. -Benjamin Franklin, statesman, author, and inventor (1706-1790)

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