1610s, "act or process of refining; state of being pure or purified," from refine + -ment. Meaning "fineness of feeling, state of being free from what is coarse or debasing" is from 1710; that of "that which proceeds from refinement or the desire to be refined, an improvement of language, taste, etc., or an alteration in them for the better" is from 1670s (Dryden). Related: Refinements.
Refinement is properly most negative, representing a freeing from what is gross, coarse, rude, and the like, or a bringing of one out of a similar condition in which he is supposed to have been at the start. Cultivation and culture represent the person or the better part of him as made to grow by long-continued and thorough work. [Century Dictionary, 1900]
c. 1500, "tastefulness, correctness, harmoniousness, refinement," of speech or prose, from Latin elegantia "taste, propriety, refinement," from elegantem (see elegant). Earlier form was elegancy (early 15c.). Meaning "refined luxury" is from 1797. Via French come German Eleganz, Swedish elegans, etc.
1530s, from French urbanité (14c.) and directly from Latin urbanitatem (nominative urbanitas) "city life; life in Rome; refinement, city fashion or manners, elegance, courtesy," also "wit, raillery, trickery," from urbanus (see urban).
1530s, "lack of breeding or refinement, awkwardness," from French rusticite (15c.), from Latin rusticitatem (nominative rusticitas) "country life," from rusticus (see rustic (adj.)). By 1630s as "rural life, quality, or character; anything betokening a rustic life or origin."
Man with no frills (American) a plain person, a man without culture or refinement. An amiable term to express a vulgar fellow. [Albert Barrère and Charles G. Leland, "A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon & Cant," Ballantyne Press, 1890]