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[ri-fahyn] /rɪˈfaɪn/
verb (used with object), refined, refining.
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), refined, refining.
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.
Verb phrases
refine on/upon, to improve by inserting finer distinctions, superior elements, etc.:
to refine on one's previous work.
Origin of refine
First recorded in 1575-85; re- + fine1
Related forms
refinable, adjective
refiner, noun
prerefine, verb (used with object), prerefined, prerefining.
self-refining, adjective
superrefine, verb (used with object), superrefined, superrefining.
unrefining, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for refine
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • But the butcher had a sentiment for his business, and knew how to refine upon it.

  • Resist it not; it goes to refine and raise thy theory of matter just as much.

    Essays, First Series Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Loving is an art, and we all need to learn the art and to refine its practice.

    Herein is Love

    Reuel L. Howe
  • Beer does not refine, perhaps,97 but at any rate it mellows.

    Europe After 8:15 H. L. Mencken, George Jean Nathan and Willard Huntington Wright
  • For the necessity for concentration only serves to strengthen and refine her aspiration.

    The Heart of Nature Francis Younghusband
British Dictionary definitions for refine


to make or become free from impurities, sediment, or other foreign matter; purify
(transitive) 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
(transitive) often foll by out. to remove (something impure or extraneous)
(intransitive; often foll by on or upon) to enlarge or improve (upon) by making subtle or fine distinctions
(transitive) to make (language) more subtle or polished
Derived Forms
refinable, adjective
Word Origin
C16: from re- + fine1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for refine

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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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refine in Medicine

refine re·fine (rĭ-fīn')
v. re·fined, re·fin·ing, re·fines
To reduce to a pure state; purify.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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