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]