re·​fine | \ ri-ˈfīn How to pronounce refine (audio) \
refined; refining

Definition of refine

transitive verb

1 : to free (something, such as metal, sugar, or oil) from impurities or unwanted material
2 : to free from moral imperfection : elevate
3 : to improve or perfect by pruning or polishing refine a poetic style
4 : to reduce in vigor or intensity
5 : to free from what is coarse, vulgar, or uncouth

intransitive verb

1 : to become pure or perfected
2 : to make improvement by introducing subtleties or distinctions

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Other Words from refine

refiner noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for refine


ameliorate, amend, better, enhance, enrich, help, improve, meliorate, perfect, upgrade



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Examples of refine in a Sentence

The inventor of the machine spent years refining the design. The class is meant to help you refine your writing style.

Recent Examples on the Web

Her designs for home goods looked current and fresh within the ordinary suburban home and humanized more high-end modernist design that was beautifully refined, but unornamented. Vanessa Lawrence, ELLE Decor, "With a Glorious New Exhibition, Designer Vera Neumann Gets Her Due," 5 Aug. 2019 In the future, the researchers say their methods could be refined to predict the amount a movie could earn at the box office and help producers decide which movies to invest in. Eva Frederick, Science | AAAS, "Artificial intelligence predicts which movies will succeed—and fail—simply from plot summaries," 2 Aug. 2019 The resulting products are then refined to produce a fuel that cars or other vehicles can use. National Geographic, "Biofuels, explained," 15 July 2019 Drinks like the pre-Columbian tejate are described in terms of their most accessible textures (in that case, a frothy meringue), and unexpected pairings are refined to their elemental flavors. Annabel Gutterman, Time, "Inside the Journey to Reinvent One of the World's Greatest Restaurants," 25 June 2019 Photo: Esther Ruth Mbabazi for The Wall Street Journal Gold is almost impossible to trace to its origin once refined. Nicholas Bariyo, WSJ, "How 7.4 Tons of Venezuela’s Gold Landed in Africa—and Vanished," 18 June 2019 Obama dispensed of a shirt, wearing nothing underneath instead, and accessorized with simple black pumps that were equally as refined. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "Michelle Obama Steps Out in a Holiday Party–Worthy Tuxedo," 19 Nov. 2018 In addition, the pharmaceutical giant supplied most of the nation’s opioid material to other drug manufacturers, refined by one of its companies from a variety of poppy that Johnson & Johnson developed and grew in Tasmania. Jan Hoffman, New York Times, "Johnson & Johnson Ordered to Pay $572 Million in Landmark Opioid Trial," 26 Aug. 2019 Terrell Suggs has been good, and has even helped Chandler Jones in refining his game. Albert Breer,, "What We Have Learned So Far From NFC West Training Camps," 13 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'refine.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of refine

1582, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

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Statistics for refine

Last Updated

22 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for refine

The first known use of refine was in 1582

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More Definitions for refine



English Language Learners Definition of refine

: to remove the unwanted substances in (something)
: to improve (something) by making small changes


re·​fine | \ ri-ˈfīn How to pronounce refine (audio) \
refined; refining

Kids Definition of refine

1 : to bring to a pure state refine sugar
2 : to make better : improve He's refining his recipe.
re·​fine | \ ri-ˈfīn How to pronounce refine (audio) \
refined; refining

Medical Definition of refine

: to free (as sugar or oil) from impurities or unwanted material

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More from Merriam-Webster on refine

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with refine

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for refine

Spanish Central: Translation of refine

Nglish: Translation of refine for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of refine for Arabic Speakers

Comments on refine

What made you want to look up refine? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


miscellaneous remnants or debris

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