[saw-fuhn, sof-uhn]

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 formso·ver·soft·en, verbre·sof·ten, verbun·soft·en·ing, adjective

Synonyms for soften

Antonyms for soften

1, 2. harden. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for soften

Contemporary Examples of soften

Historical Examples of soften

  • "I'll put a rubber bit in his mouth, to soften it," he pumped brokenly.


    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
(intr) 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

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