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[saw-fuh n, sof-uh n] /ˈsɔ fən, ˈsɒf ən/
verb (used with object)
to make soft or softer.
verb (used without object)
to become soft or softer.
Origin of soften
Middle English word dating back to 1325-75; See origin at soft, -en1
Related forms
oversoften, verb
resoften, verb
unsoftening, adjective
1. melt; mollify, mitigate, soothe, alleviate, calm, quiet, ease.
1, 2. harden. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for soften
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "I'll put a rubber bit in his mouth, to soften it," he pumped brokenly.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
  • I asked, more to soften the effect of Marvin's brutal remark than anything else.

    The Underdog F. Hopkinson Smith
  • Enough, you are happy, and I shall be so too, when God pleases to soften this blow.

    Night and Morning, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • That it could soften or relent, appeared next to impossible.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • At first indeed he had hoped to soften Benedetta, and throw her into Luigi's arms.

British Dictionary definitions for soften


to make or become soft or softer
to make or become gentler
(intransitive) (commerce)
  1. (of demand, a market, etc) to weaken
  2. (of a price) to fall
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
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Word Origin and History for soften

late 14c., "to mitigate, diminish" (transitive), from soft (adj.) + -en (1). Meaning "to make physically soft" is from 1520s; intransitive sense of "to become softer" is attested from 1610s. Soften up in military sense of "weaken defenses" is from 1940. Related: Softened; softening.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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