verb (used with object), re·fined, re·fin·ing.
- to bring to a fine or a pure state; free from impurities: to refine metal, sugar, or petroleum.
- to purify from what is coarse, vulgar, or debasing; make elegant or cultured.
- to bring to a finer state or form by purifying.
- to make more fine, subtle, or precise: to refine one’s writing style.
verb (used without object), re·fined, re·fin·ing.
- to become pure: The silver is refining in the furnace.
- to become more fine, elegant, or polished: His parents hope that his manners will refine as he gets older.
- to make fine distinctions in thought or language.
- refine on/upon, to improve by inserting finer distinctions, superior elements, etc.: to refine on one’s previous work.
- to make or become free from impurities, sediment, or other foreign matter; purify
- (tr) to separate (a mixture) into pure constituents, as in an oil refinery
- to make or become free from coarse characteristics; make or become elegant or polished
- (tr often foll by out) to remove (something impure or extraneous)
- (intr ; often foll by on or upon) to enlarge or improve (upon) by making subtle or fine distinctions
- (tr) to make (language) more subtle or polished
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.
- To reduce to a pure state; purify.