soft·​en | \ ˈsȯ-fən How to pronounce soften (audio) \
softened; softening\ ˈsȯ-​fə-​niŋ How to pronounce softening (audio) , 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 upsoften 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 How to pronounce softener (audio) , 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 Some senators who previously seemed cool to Ratcliffe’s nomination appeared to soften. Time, "Trump's Nominee for National Intel Director Faces Skepticism in Senate Confirmation Hearing," 5 May 2020 Reason can’t make sense of the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune, but humor—sometimes—can soften the blows. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "So Sad, Can’t Stop Laughing," 4 May 2020 Verdict: McLaren successfully softens its approach without diluting its brand. John Pearley Huffman, Car and Driver, "The Great Compromise: McLaren 600LT vs. GT," 29 Apr. 2020 Real estate agents have reported a huge decline in homebuyer traffic and softening sales because of the pandemic and resulting record job losses. Steve Brown, Dallas News, "U.S. home sales fell 8.5% in March," 21 Apr. 2020 These efforts appear to have softened the blow to the food industry this time around. Jessie Yeung, CNN, "The coronavirus pandemic could threaten global food supply, UN warns," 10 Apr. 2020 In spite of pressure to soften its green ambitions because of the pandemic, the EU has begun a consultation on tightening its carbon reduction targets by 2030. NBC News, "Coronavirus lockdowns have sent pollution plummeting. Environmentalists worry about what comes next.," 31 Mar. 2020 Even Tom Curran, the NBC Sports Boston reporter whose comments gave life to the rumor, appeared to soften his stance hours after his SiriusXM radio interview Tuesday. Ann Killion,, "Would Tom Brady to the 49ers make any sense? Here’s a reality check," 4 Mar. 2020 Colts fans eager for Ballard to hook a big fish will say the general manager appeared to have softened his stance on making big splash signings. Jim Ayello, Indianapolis Star, "Insider: The futility in trying to guess how Chris Ballard, Colts will spend cap space," 27 Feb. 2020

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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Time Traveler for soften

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for soften

Last Updated

19 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Soften.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for soften


How to pronounce soften (audio)

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 How to pronounce soften (audio) \
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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for soften

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with soften

Spanish Central: Translation of soften

Nglish: Translation of soften for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of soften for Arabic Speakers

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