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soft-ped·​al ˈsȯf(t)-ˈpe-dᵊl How to pronounce soft-pedal (audio)
soft-pedaled; soft-pedaling; soft-pedals

transitive verb

: play down, de-emphasize
soft-pedal the issue
: to use the soft pedal in playing

soft pedal

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: a foot pedal on a piano that reduces the volume of sound
: something that muffles, deadens, or reduces effect

Examples of soft-pedal in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
The controversy began with criticisms of some universities, Harvard included, for soft-pedaling their responses to the horrific Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, and for then ignoring the overheated rhetoric of many pro-Palestinian protesters on campus. Stephen L. Carter, New York Times, 24 Jan. 2024 Mann neither skimps on visceral excitement nor soft-pedals the horror, which makes Enzo’s indifference seem all the more maddening. Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, 22 Dec. 2023 Republicans have repeatedly accused Hunter Biden of broad wrongdoing in his overseas business deals and said the Justice Department under President Biden was soft-pedaling the case against his son. Perry Stein, Devlin Barrett and Matt Viser, Anchorage Daily News, 17 Aug. 2023 Still, the chamber also has had some notable stumbles, such as soft-pedaling the Atlanta schools cheating scandal and pushing a regional transportation tax a decade ago that voters rejected. Mirtha Donastorg, ajc, 31 July 2023 Writing his memoir, Mr. Atae said, was a way to soft-pedal his eventual announcement to fans. Hikari Hida, New York Times, 26 July 2023 On the day that the Justice Department unsealed the indictment of Trump over his handling of classified documents, most Republican candidates continued to soft-pedal the case against the ex-president and went after law enforcement instead. David Jackson, USA TODAY, 10 June 2023 There are merely people who are gung ho about it, and people who would prefer for various reasons to soft-pedal it. Michael Tomasky, The New Republic, 2 June 2023 Other projects are soft-pedaling their Chinese ties. Phred Dvorak,, 16 Apr. 2023
This is a two-part skill; his superb legato (or connected articulation) on the keyboard was heightened by skillful deployment of both the sustaining and the soft pedal. Marcus Overton,, 8 Jan. 2018

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'soft-pedal.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


1912, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1817, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of soft-pedal was in 1817

Dictionary Entries Near soft-pedal

Cite this Entry

“Soft-pedal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Apr. 2024.

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