Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The act of refining.
  • n. The result of refining; an improvement or elaboration.
  • n. The state or quality of being refined; cultivation, as in manners or taste.
  • n. A keen or precise phrasing; a subtle distinction.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The act, or the result of refining; the removal of impurities, or a purified material
  • n. High-class style; cultivation.
  • n. A fine or subtle distinction.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The act of refining, or the state of being refined
  • n. That which is refined, elaborated, or polished to excess; an affected subtilty.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The act of refining or purifying; the act of separating from a substance all extraneous matter; purification: clarification: as, the refinement of metals or liquors.
  • n. The state of being pure or purified.
  • n. The state of being free from what is coarse, rude, inelegant, debasing, or the like; purity of taste, mind, etc.; elegance of manners or language; culture.
  • n. That which proceeds from refining or a desire to refine; a result of elaboration, polish, or nicety: often used to denote an over-nicety, or affected subtlety: as, the refinements of logic or philosophy; the refinements of cunning.
  • n. Excessive or extravagant compliment; a form of expression intended to impose on the hearer.
  • n. Synonyms Cultivation, etc. See culture.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a subtle difference in meaning or opinion or attitude
  • n. the result of improving something
  • n. the process of removing impurities (as from oil or metals or sugar etc.)
  • n. a highly developed state of perfection; having a flawless or impeccable quality
  • n. the quality of excellence in thought and manners and taste

Etymologies

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  • "Perhaps Mme de Guermantes would smile next day when she referred to the headdress, a little too complicated, which the Princess had worn, but certainly she would declare that the latter had been none the less quite lovely and marvellously got up; and the Princess, whose own tastes found something a little cold, a little austere, a little "tailor-made" in her cousin's way of dressing, would discover in this strict sobriety an exquisite refinement."
    --The Guermantes Way by Marcel Proust, translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin, Revised by D.J. Enright, p 63 of the Modern Library paperback edition

    August 4, 2008