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.
Recent Examples on the Web The Swiss ruling softened the blow for those who lost Tuesday. Molly Quell, Fortune Europe, 10 Apr. 2024 Put simply: Trump shifted his position in a way that will anger his right flank that has nowhere else to go and could soften Democrats’ grip on the female vote. Philip Elliott, TIME, 9 Apr. 2024 Officials have forecast three rate cuts this year, goosing the stock market, but that timetable could shift if inflation softens more gradually or the economy and job market stay hot. Paul Davidson, USA TODAY, 5 Apr. 2024 That history and the relatively small size of its local Russian minority had traditionally softened its approach to its threatening neighbor. Tomas Dapkus, New York Times, 3 Apr. 2024 This softens it slightly but then stops the cooking, sealing in the bright green color. Katie Workman, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3 Apr. 2024 As the symphony of the world softens, her own body gets louder. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, 3 Apr. 2024 Brewing the tea for 5 minutes might sound like a lot, but remember it will be softened by the milk and syrup. 5 tips for a better cup — or pot — of tea The lavender. Becky Krystal, Washington Post, 1 Apr. 2024 Subsequent listens to the entirety of Cowboy Carter have softened me a bit toward the song. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, 29 Mar. 2024

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 19 Apr. 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

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