1. having or showing well-bred feeling, taste, etc.: refined people.
  2. freed or free from coarseness, vulgarity, etc.: refined taste.
  3. freed from impurities: refined sugar.
  4. very subtle, precise, or exact: refined distinctions.

verb (used with object), re·fined, re·fin·ing.

  1. to bring to a fine or a pure state; free from impurities: to refine metal, sugar, or petroleum.
  2. to purify from what is coarse, vulgar, or debasing; make elegant or cultured.
  3. to bring to a finer state or form by purifying.
  4. to make more fine, subtle, or precise: to refine one’s writing style.

verb (used without object), re·fined, re·fin·ing.

  1. to become pure: The silver is refining in the furnace.
  2. to become more fine, elegant, or polished: His parents hope that his manners will refine as he gets older.
  3. to make fine distinctions in thought or language.

Verb Phrases

  1. refine on/upon, to improve by inserting finer distinctions, superior elements, etc.: to refine on one’s previous work.


  1. not coarse or vulgar; genteel, elegant, or polite
  2. subtle; discriminating
  3. freed from impurities; purified


  1. to make or become free from impurities, sediment, or other foreign matter; purify
  2. (tr) to separate (a mixture) into pure constituents, as in an oil refinery
  3. to make or become free from coarse characteristics; make or become elegant or polished
  4. (tr often foll by out) to remove (something impure or extraneous)
  5. (intr ; often foll by on or upon) to enlarge or improve (upon) by making subtle or fine distinctions
  6. (tr) to make (language) more subtle or polished

1570s, “subtle;” 1580s, “elegant;” 1590s, “purified,” past participle adjective from refine (v.).


1580s, of metals, c.1590 of manners, from re-, intensive prefix, + obsolete fine (v.) “make fine,” from fine (adj.) “delicate.” Cf. French raffiner, Italian raffinare, Spanish refinar. General and figurative sense is recorded from 1590s; of sugar, from 1610s. Related: Refined; refining.


  1. To reduce to a pure state; purify.

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