Etymology
Advertisement
degree (n.)

c. 1200, "a step, a stair," also "a position in a hierarchy," and "a stage of progress, a single movement toward an end," from Old French degré (12c.) "a step (of a stair), pace, degree (of relationship), academic degree; rank, status, position," which is said to be from Vulgar Latin *degradus "a step," from Latin de- "down" (see de-) + gradus "a step; a step climbed;" figuratively "a step toward something, a degree of something rising by stages" (from PIE root *ghredh- "to walk, go").

A word of wide use in Middle English; in 14c. it also meant "way, manner; condition, state, standing." Most extended senses in Middle English are from the notion of a hierarchy of steps. Genealogical sense of "a certain remove in the line of blood" is from mid-14c.; educational sense of "an academic rank conferred by diploma" is from late 14c. By degrees "gradually, by stages" is from late 14c.

Other transferred senses are from the notion of "one of a number of subdivisions of something extended in space or time," hence "intensive quality, measure, extent." The meaning "1/360th of a circle" is from late 14c. (The division of the circle into 360 degrees was known in Babylon and Egypt; the number is perhaps from the daily motion of the sun through the zodiac in the course of a year.) From 1540s as "a measure of heat;" the specific use as a unit of temperature on a thermometer is by 1727. In reference to crime, by 1670s as "one of certain distinctions of culpability;" in U.S. use by 1821 as "one of the phases of the same kind of crime."

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
third degree (n.)
"intense interrogation by police," 1900, probably a reference to Third Degree of master mason in Freemasonry (1772), the conferring of which included an interrogation ceremony. Third degree as a measure of severity of burns (most severe) is attested from 1866, from French (1832); in American English, as a definition of the seriousness of a particular type of crime (the least serious type) it is recorded from 1865.
Related entries & more 
*ghredh- 

Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to walk, go." 

It forms all or part of: aggress; aggression; aggressive; centigrade; congress; degrade; degree; degression; digress; digression; egress; gradation; grade; gradual; graduate; grallatorial; gravigrade; ingredient; ingress; plantigrade; progress; progression; regress; regression; retrograde; retrogress; tardigrade; transgress; transgression.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Latin gradus "a step, a pace, gait," figuratively "a step toward something, a degree of something rising by stages;" gradi "to walk, step, go;" Lithuanian gridiju, gridyti "to go, wander;" Old Church Slavonic gredo "to come;" Old Irish in-greinn "he pursues."  

Related entries & more 
doctoral (adj.)

"relating or pertaining to the degree of a doctor or to one who holds such a degree," 1560s; see doctor (n.) + -al (1).

Related entries & more 
pretty (adv.)

"to a considerable extent," expressing a degree less than very, 1560s, from pretty (adj.). Pretty much "in a considerable degree" is by 1660s.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
graduation (n.)
early 15c., in alchemy, "a tempering, a refining of something to a certain degree; measurement according to the four degrees of a quality," from graduate (n.). General sense of "a dividing into degrees" is from 1590s; meaning "action of receiving or giving an academic degree" is from early 15c.; in reference to the ceremony where a degree is given, from 1818.
Related entries & more 
connectivity (n.)

"state or degree of connectedness," 1872, from connective + -ity.

Related entries & more 
graduate (n.)

early 15c., "one who holds a degree" (originally with man; as a stand-alone noun from mid-15c.), from Medieval Latin graduatus, past participle of graduari "to take a degree," from Latin gradus "a step; a step climbed (on a ladder or stair);" figuratively "a step toward something, a degree of something rising by stages" (from PIE root *ghredh- "to walk, go"). As an adjective, from late 15c.

Related entries & more 
doctorate (n.)

"the degree of a doctor," 1670s; see doctor (n.) + -ate (1).

Related entries & more 
minimally (adv.)

"to a minimal extent or degree," 1894, from minimal + -ly (2).

Related entries & more