Masonic Curiosities, Origin of the Word Freemasons

MASONIC CURIOSITIES, ORIGIN OF THE WORD FREEMASONS

The first-known use of the word Freemasons – in the form Free Masons – occurs in City of London Letter-book H of 9 August 1376, though the word is in fact deleted in favour of Mason. Masons and Freemasons were interchangeable during the 15th and 16th centuries and Freemasons were generally meant to denote hewers or setters of freestone, Masons being used to embrace all stoneworkers. Ashmole in his diary wrote that he was made a Free Mason and referred in 1686 to the “Fellowship of Free Masons”. James Anderson when writing his 1723 Constitutions did not use the single word – Freemasons – once. Whatever the reasons, the 1723 Constitutions contain approximately 126 references to Masons, 12 to Free Masons, 10 to Free and Accepted Masons, 9 to Free-Masons, one to Accepted Free Masons and none to Freemasons. And such is the tenacity of tradition that to this day the most of the Constitutions are addressed to Free and Accepted Masons and not to Accepted Freemasons. The earliest-known anti-masonic leaflet, of 1698, warns the public against “those called Free Masons” – almost certainly what we now know as speculative Freemasons.

James M. Tolley PM
Putnam Lodge 139 AF&AM