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Related to thirds: Rule of thirds

get the third degree

To be interrogated, scrutinized, or questioned intensely or thoroughly by someone. My boyfriend is so controlling that I always get the third degree if I go anywhere or see anyone without him. I got the third degree from the police regarding my whereabouts during the crime.
See also: degree, get, third

give (someone) the third degree

To interrogate, scrutinize, or question someone intensely or thoroughly. My boyfriend is so controlling, always giving me the third degree if I go anywhere or see anyone without him. The police gave me the third degree regarding my whereabouts during the crime.
See also: degree, give, third

third wheel

Someone who has no real place or purpose in a situation, likened to a superfluous extra wheel on a two-wheeled vehicle. When Kelly invited me to go to the movies, I didn't know that her boyfriend would be joining us. I felt like a third wheel the entire night.
See also: third, wheel


1. adverb Indirectly, as opposed to from the original source. But I heard thirdhand, so who knows if that information is actually true.
2. adjective Describing information that has been learned indirectly, as opposed to from the original source. I can't trust this thirdhand gossip! Who was in the meeting and can tell us what really happened?
3. adjective Describing an item that one has obtained after two previous owners. Try to pretend that this isn't a thirdhand dress and gush about how good it looks on me!

third person

1. In grammar, a class of pronoun (and its accompanying verb) that is used to refer to a person or thing other than the speaker or the listener. "He" is a third person pronoun.
2. In writing, a style in which facts or details are presented objectively. This style is used in both creative pieces (often so that the author is not limited to just one character's perspective) and in academic papers (where facts need to be presented without bias or emotion). This essay must be written in the third person because you are stating facts about historical events, not sharing your feelings about them.
See also: person, third

third string

The substitute players who are second in line to replace the starters (or "first string") as a game goes on. A player on the third string is considered the third best player in that position. My brother seems pretty happy with being the team's third string quarterback, even though he knows he won't get to play unless the two guys ahead of him get injured.
See also: string, third

third time lucky

The belief or hope that the third attempt at something will be successful. Primarily heard in UK. I hope to make it third time lucky after failing this test twice already!
See also: lucky, third, time

third time pays for all

Success is more enjoyable, and more likely to happen, after initial failures. I know you're worried about failing this test again, but keep in mind that the third time pays for all.
See also: all, pay, third, time

third time's a charm

The belief or hope that the third attempt at something will be successful. Primarily heard in US. I hope the third time's a charm—I've already failed this test twice already!
See also: charm, third

in the first place

1. From the outset; in or at the very beginning. You should have said you were feeling ill in the first place! I wouldn't have given you such a hard time if I'd known. I never would have bought this car in the first place if I'd known there weren't airbags.
2. As the first of a given set of points (e.g., in an argument). Why am I quitting? Well, in the first place, I haven't been paid for overtime in nearly a year, and I just don't feel valued as an employee in general.
See also: first, place

go down for the third time

Fig. to be just on the verge of failing. (From the notion that a boxer who is knocked down three times in one round normally loses the fight.) I was going down for the third time when I thought of a plan that would save my job.
See also: down, third, time

*third degree

Fig. a long and detailed period of questioning. (*Typically: get ~; give someone ~.) Why is it I get the third degree from you every time I come home late? Poor Sally spent all night at the police station getting the third degree.
See also: degree, third

third time's the charm

Prov. The third time you try to do something, it will work. Jill: I've called Miriam twice, but she doesn't answer her phone. Jane: Try again. The third time's the charm.
See also: charm, third

in the first place

1. From the beginning, at the outset, before anything else. For example, Why didn't you tell me in the first place that you've decided to leave? or He could have bought a new one in the first place.
2. As the first of several items in order of importance. This phrase is usually accompanied by in the second place, third place, and so on, as in I'm not joining the health club because, in the first place, I don't like their hours, and in the second place, I can't afford the dues . [First half of 1600s] Also see for one.
See also: first, place

third degree

Intensive questioning or rough treatment used to obtain information or a confession, as in The detectives gave her the third degree, or Jim gave her the third degree when she came home so late. This term comes from freemasonry, where a candidate receives the third or highest degree, that of master mason, upon passing an intensive test. Dating from the 1770s, the phrase was transferred to other kinds of interrogation in the late 1800s.
See also: degree, third

third rail

Something that is dangerous to tamper with, as in Anything concerning veterans is a political third rail. This term alludes to the rail that supplies the high voltage powering an electric train, so called since 1918. On the other hand, grab hold of the third rail means "become energized." Both shifts from the original meaning date from the late 1900s.
See also: rail, third

third world

Underdeveloped or developing countries, as in The conditions in our poorest rural areas resemble those in the third world. This expression originated in the mid-1900s, at first denoting those countries in Asia and Africa that were not aligned with either the Communist bloc nations or the non-Communist Western nations. Because they were for the most part poor and underdeveloped, the term was transferred to all countries with those characteristics, and later still to poorer groups within a larger prevailing culture.
See also: third, world

give someone the third degree

If someone gives you the third degree, they ask you a lot of questions in a determined manner. He told the operator his wife was having a baby on the pavement. The operator gave him the third degree to make sure he was serious. The interviewer didn't exactly give her the third degree.
See also: degree, give, third

a fifth wheel


a third wheel

A fifth wheel or a third wheel in a situation is someone who is not needed or wanted there. As a single person, you're somewhat of a third wheel when traveling with couples. I just wanted to feel like part of the family instead of a fifth wheel. I wanted to feel like I belonged! Note: A fifth wheel on a car or a third wheel on a bicycle would be unnecessary.
See also: fifth, wheel

third time lucky

after twice failing to accomplish something, the third attempt may be successful.
Third time lucky has been proverbial since the mid 19th century; a US variant is third time is the charm .
See also: lucky, third, time

in the ˈfirst place

1 used at the beginning of a sentence to introduce the different points you are making in an argument: In the first place it’s not your car, and in the second you’re not old enough to drive it. Is that clear?
2 used at the end of a sentence to talk about why something was done or whether it should have been done or not: I should never have taken that job in the first place.
See also: first, place

(at) second, third, etc. ˈhand

by being told about something by somebody else who has seen it or heard about it, not by experiencing, seeing, etc. it yourself: I’m fed up of hearing about these decisions third hand!
See also: hand

be/come a poor second, third, etc.

(especially British English) finish a long way behind the winner in a race, competition, etc: The Socialists won the election easily with 40% of the vote, with the Democrats coming a poor second with only 26%.
See also: come, poor

(give somebody) the ˌthird deˈgree

(informal) question somebody for a long time and in a thorough way; use threats or violence to get information from somebody: The soldiers were given the third degree in order to make them reveal the information.Why are you giving me the third degree?This expression comes from Freemasonry (= a secret society). In order to reach the highest level of the organization and become a Third Degree Mason, members are interrogated.
See also: degree, third

third time ˈlucky

(American English also third time is the ˈcharm) used when you have failed to do something twice and hope that you will succeed the third time: I missed again! Oh well, third time lucky!
See also: lucky, third, time

a fifth/third ˈwheel

(American English) an unwanted, extra or unnecessary person: No, I don’t think I’ll join you. Whenever I go out with you guys I just feel like a fifth wheel.
This refers to adding an extra unnecessary wheel to a vehicle.
See also: fifth, third, wheel

third degree

n. a session of questioning, usually by the police. Bart got the third degree, but—being the thoroughbred he is—he was a clam. They gave Spike the third degree, but he refused to say anything.
See also: degree, third

third wheel

n. an extra person; a person who gets in the way. (see also spare tire.) Well, let’s face it. We don’t need you. You are a third wheel.
See also: third, wheel
References in classic literature ?
He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.
So to-day they looked narrowly at their leader to see who should shoot third.
One of them, however, came within the black rim, and he followed it up by placing his third in the full center, just as Stutely had done in his last.
The third is, the better to discover the mind of another.
In the morning the soldier said nothing about what had happened, but determined to see more of this strange adventure, and went again the second and third night; and every thing happened just as before; the princesses danced each time till their shoes were worn to pieces, and then returned home.
And if those few who have large fortunes should acquire still greater power, the oligarchy will then alter into one of the third sort; for they will get all the offices of the state into their own hands by a law which directs the son to succeed upon the death of his father; and, after that, when, by means of their increasing wealth and powerful connections, they extend still further their oppression, a monarchical dynasty will directly succeed wherein men will be supreme, and not the law; and this is the fourth species of an oligarchy correspondent to the last-mentioned class of democracies.
To this succeeded a profound silence, broken only by the steps of the third brigade, now entering the cavern.
When the eager but misrepeated words had reached their destination in a cry of: "The general to the third company," the missing officer appeared from behind his company and, though he was a middle-aged man and not in the habit of running, trotted awkwardly stumbling on his toes toward the general.
The second bulb, planted by me, has produced the black tulip, and the third and last" -- saying this, she drew it from her bosom -- "here it is, in the very same paper in which it was wrapped up together with the two others.
I know not, sir, when I got this habit of yawning, nor whether these attacks of howling were inflicted on me as a judgment for my crimes, or for any other cause; but this I do know, that when I yawn for the third time, I actually turn into a wolf and attack men.
There remains but the third class, the superstitious.
And would you not recognize a third class, such as gymnastic, and the care of the sick, and the physician's art; also the various ways of money-making--these do us good but we regard them as disagreeable; and no one would choose them for their own sakes, but only for the sake of some reward or result which flows from them?
The friend of the anchorite is always the third one: the third one is the cork which preventeth the conversation of the two sinking into the depth.
It was the height of the summer; yet it rained for more than twenty-four hours, and did not clear until the afternoon of the third day.