"shelter or protection from danger, assistance in distress," late 14c., from Old French refuge "hiding place" (12c.), from Latin refugium "a taking refuge; a place of refuge, place to flee back to," from re- "back" (see re-) + fugere "to flee" (see fugitive (adj.)) + -ium neuter suffix in a sense of "place for."
By late 19c. especially "temporary shelter for the destitute or homeless." To take refuge "seek safety or shelter (in)," literally or figuratively, is by 1690s.
1590s, transitive, "afford refuge;" 1630s, intransitive, "take refuge, seek shelter or protection," from refuge (n.) or (adj.). Marked "now rare" in OED; take refuge being the more usual verb form. Related: Refuged; refuging.