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 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 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

Despite the recent price rebound, some analysts caution that a dip in refining activity could also soften demand for crude oil, potentially limiting gains in energy markets. Amrith Ramkumar, WSJ, "Tropical Storm Barry Helps Spark Fuel-Price Rebound," 12 July 2019 Although softened a bit to help students get back on the field quicker if their grades improve, the law is still in place. Washington Post, "‘No pass, no play’ part of Perot legacy," 10 July 2019 Some believe Trump’s pugnacious policies and the humanitarian crisis on the border with Mexico have softened attitudes toward undocumented immigrants and made voters more sympathetic to their plight. Mark Z. Barabak,, "Are Democrats helping Trump by promising healthcare to undocumented migrants?," 9 July 2019 McGurr said people have softened their opinions toward graffiti artists. CBS News, "Graffiti beyond the streets," 7 July 2019 Be aware that softened water contains trace amounts of salt. Joseph Truini, Popular Mechanics, "How a Water Softener Works (And Why You Might Want One)," 4 July 2019 The request came as Airbnb softened its historically combative approach to data-sharing requests. Paris Martineau, WIRED, "How 9 People Built an Illegal $5M Airbnb Empire in New York," 24 June 2019 Now, just as Mr Macron is softening, a fresh obstacle has emerged in Germany. The Economist, "The EU must keep its promise to North Macedonia," 12 June 2019 The Trump administration’s ban, announced Tuesday, reversed an Obama-era regulation that softened travel restrictions for Americans to Cuba in 2016. Chabeli Herrera,, "Norwegian cancels all cruises with a Cuba stop after Sept. 2 following new travel ban," 6 June 2019

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

15 Jul 2019

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 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

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

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characterized by aphorism

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