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soften up

verb (adverb)
to make or become soft
(transitive) to weaken (an enemy's defences) by shelling, bombing, etc
(transitive) 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
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Examples from the Web for soften up
Historical Examples
  • “Maybe Mr. Kain will soften up when we take the money to him,” Dan said hopefully.

  • There are various kinds of homely women—some who are hideous in blue maybe, but who soften up in pink.

    Cheerful--By Request Edna Ferber
  • Skins already dry may be placed either in clear water or tan liquor until they soften up.

  • Such measures might soften up the usual civ Wass interviewed here.

    Star Hunter Andre Alice Norton
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 Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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