soft·​en ˈsȯ-fən How to pronounce soften (audio)
softened; softening ˈsȯ-fə-niŋ How to pronounce soften (audio)

transitive verb

: to make soft or softer
: to weaken the military resistance or the morale of especially by harassment (such as preliminary bombardment)
often used with up
: 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
ˈsȯ-fə-nər How to pronounce soften (audio)

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web The British Government has softened its stance, leading a House of Lords Committee to argue for more progress. James Morris, Forbes, 10 Feb. 2024 Make frosting: Beat softened butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Anna Theoktisto, Southern Living, 9 Feb. 2024 Both countries have passed laws — albeit flawed ones heavily softened by lobbying — that require Google and Meta (the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and others) to negotiate payments with news publishers. Anita Chabria, Los Angeles Times, 8 Feb. 2024 But neither Democrat has softened his stance in the months since October. Ross Barkan, New York Times, 7 Feb. 2024 Her black eyeliner had the most dramatic — and sharp wing — but was slightly softened with a bit of shimmer. Hedy Phillips, Peoplemag, 5 Feb. 2024 That’s not to say that prices softened or demand fell flat. Frederick Melo, Twin Cities, 4 Feb. 2024 Meanwhile, Tesla — which rose like a rocket to become the world’s most valuable automaker in 2020 — is encountering new challenges, including stagnating revenue from steep price cuts and the prospect of softening demand for its electric vehicles. Rachel Lerman, Washington Post, 1 Feb. 2024 Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, until the onion begins to soften. Bridgette A. Lacy, Charlotte Observer, 31 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'soften.' 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

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near soften

Cite this Entry

“Soften.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


soft·​en ˈsȯ-fən How to pronounce soften (audio)
softened; softening ˈsȯf-(ə-)niŋ How to pronounce soften (audio)
: to make or become soft or softer
: to lessen the strength of
softener noun

More from Merriam-Webster on soften

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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