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 Skin type: The cream is particularly hydrating and softening on dry skin. Jenny Berg, Vogue, 24 Feb. 2024 This has all given Mr. Netanyahu little incentive to soften his opposition to the U.S. initiative. Ned Temko, The Christian Science Monitor, 22 Feb. 2024 Record-setting rainstorms that have drenched Southern California have caused water to infiltrate the layers of clay in the landslide area, softening it and allowing for more rapid movement. Hannah Fry, Los Angeles Times, 20 Feb. 2024 Green said there are steps districts can take to soften the blow of school closures. Silas Allen, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 20 Feb. 2024 Here is a simplified summary: Soak rice in hot water to soften it. Chantha Nguon, Condé Nast Traveler, 20 Feb. 2024 Add the onion and saute until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Lynda Balslev, The Mercury News, 19 Feb. 2024 The church has softened its tone on those issues in recent years, and New York’s current cardinal, Timothy Dolan, has said the church should be more welcoming of gay people. Liam Stack, New York Times, 16 Feb. 2024 How to make overnight oats Overnight oats are made with oatmeal that's been softened by soaking in liquid overnight rather than being cooked on the stove. USA TODAY, 14 Feb. 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 4 Mar. 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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