soft·​en | \ˈsȯ-fən \
softened; softening\ˈsȯ-​fə-​niŋ, ˈsȯf-​niŋ \

Definition of soften 

transitive verb

1 : to make soft or softer

2a : to weaken the military resistance or the morale of especially by harassment (such as preliminary bombardment) often used with up

b : to impair the strength or resistance of often used with up soften up a sales prospect

intransitive verb

: to become soft or softer her face softened

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Other Words from soften

softener \ˈsȯ-​fə-​nər, ˈsȯf-​nər \ noun

Examples of soften in a Sentence

The butter will soften if left on the counter overnight. The recipe called for one stick of butter, softened. The oil is used to soften and preserve the leather. The lotion softens dry skin. The company has softened its stance on dating in the workplace. Her face softened when he entered the room. His criticism of the president has softened in the past year. The grass softened my fall.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and beginning to brown, 5-8 minutes. Max Falkowitz, WSJ, "Flake News: Fresh Coconut Is Delicious," 23 Nov. 2018 Add the onion and a small pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes. Adam Ried,, "Recipes: Switch it up with lamb burgers instead of beef," 13 July 2018 Add bell pepper, onion, asparagus and ½ teaspoon salt; sauté about 5 minutes until vegetables soften. Jennifer Rude Klett, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Table for 1: For solo diners, cooking at home offers many perks," 12 July 2018 Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened and lightly colored, 8 to 10 minutes. Daniel Neman, sacbee, "Artistry, flavor blends are marks of Moroccan," 10 July 2018 Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and browned in spots, 15 to 20 minutes. Heinz® Mayonnaise, Bon Appetit, "Not Your Average French Dip," 25 June 2018 In a large sauté pan, over medium heat, heat the oil. Saute the garlic until just softened, about 2 minutes. Claire Perez,, "Bravo's ziti chicken dish gets new name, same great taste," 15 June 2018 Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and translucent, 4–5 minutes. Alison Roman, The Cut, "Forget Engagement Chicken. Meet Breakup Steak.," 6 June 2018 Cook and stir until softened, about 3 minutes, and then add to the bowl with bacon. San Antonio Express-News, "Recipe: Venison Bacon Burger," 21 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'soften.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of soften

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

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Statistics for soften

Last Updated

2 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for soften

The first known use of soften was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for soften



English Language Learners Definition of soften

: to become less hard or firm or to make (something) less hard or firm

: to make (something) less dry or rough

: to make (something) less severe, harsh, extreme, etc.


soft·​en | \ˈsȯ-fən \
softened; softening

Kids Definition of soften

1 : to make or become soft or less firm Let the wax soften in the sun.

2 : to make or become gentler or less harsh The elder's stern expression softened.— Brian Jacques, Redwall

Other Words from soften

softener noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on soften

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with soften

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for soften

Spanish Central: Translation of soften

Nglish: Translation of soften for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of soften for Arabic Speakers

Comments on soften

What made you want to look up soften? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a nest or breeding place

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