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British Dictionary definitions for soften up

soften up

verb (adverb)
  1. to make or become soft
  2. (tr) to weaken (an enemy's defences) by shelling, bombing, etc
  3. (tr) to weaken the resistance of (a person) by persuasive talk, advances, etc
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Idioms and Phrases with soften up

soften up

Reduce resistance, as in His sales motto was: a fine lunch and a few drinks often will soften up a prospective customer. This expression transfers lessening of physical hardness to lessening mental resistance. It was first used, however, in World War II, where it meant “reduce the enemy's defenses by preliminary bombing.” [c. 1940]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.