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)

Example Sentences

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 Microwave sweet potato cubes for 2 minutes to soften before roasting. Bethany Thayer, Detroit Free Press, 25 Mar. 2023 Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to soften. Ethel G. Hofman, Sun Sentinel, 23 Mar. 2023 That’s likely to hurt economic growth and soften inflation so the Fed doesn’t have to hike as much. Paul Davidson, USA TODAY, 21 Mar. 2023 Jews were willing to pay considerable sums to retract such laws or soften their provisions. Flora Cassen, Smithsonian Magazine, 20 Mar. 2023 Wooden oak accents and lush foliage further soften the space and create a seamless integration. Rachel Silva, ELLE Decor, 17 Mar. 2023 They’re flanked by a set of 1960s Pierre Chapo S11 chairs in worn wood and distressed leather, which soften the effect of the metal and marble. Kurt Soller David Chow, New York Times, 13 Mar. 2023 In the next few months, the great frozen swamplands of Alaska will soften and green. Ned Rozell | Alaska Science, Anchorage Daily News, 11 Mar. 2023 The thought, however, was that time would soften attitudes. Tatiana Siegel, Variety, 10 Mar. 2023 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 31 Mar. 2023.

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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