1. prolonged or hard questioning; use of torture to get confession or information:
- “You don’t think they’re giving him third degree or anything of that sort?” “My dear fellow, third degree? You’ve been watching too many old movies on the TV.”
2. (U.S. legal) the least serious grade of a particular crime:
- Maliciously burning in the day time a building, the burning of which in the night time would be arson in the second degree, is arson in the third degree.
3. (in classification of burns) highest in intensity:
- Injuries of the first and second degree will leave practically no scarring but serious deformities may result from the third degree burns.
Note: The expression does not correlate in meaning with the phrase third level—(Irish) used with reference to higher education:
- Greater resources needs to be put into education at the earliest stages so that young people will make it through to third level.
third-class degree—the lowest honors degree obtained from a British university:
- This was the year when Dodgson completed his studies receiving a third class degree in Classics.