be soft on someone, Informal. to be amorously inclined toward a person; have an affection for: He's been soft on her for years.

Origin of soft

before 1000; Middle English softe yielding, gentle, mild, Old English sōfte agreeable; cognate with German sanft
Related formssoft·ly, adverbsoft·ness, nouno·ver·soft, adjectiveo·ver·soft·ly, adverbo·ver·soft·ness, nounsu·per·soft, adjectiveul·tra·soft, adjectiveul·tra·soft·ly, adverbul·tra·soft·ness, nounun·soft, adjectiveun·soft·ly, adverbun·soft·ness, noun

Synonyms for soft Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for softness

Contemporary Examples of softness

Historical Examples of softness

  • With his whole soul, he marvelled at her softness and relaxation.


    Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius

  • The least trace of softness in his voice would, I think, have broken down my temper.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

  • His skin still preserved the softness of his twenty-six years.


    Emile Zola

  • And the immense sheet of water expanded beneath the softness of the sky.

    The Flood

    Emile Zola

  • The sun set, the evening was like the softness of springtime.

British Dictionary definitions for softness



the quality or an instance of being soft
metallurgy the tendency of a metal to distort easilySee brittleness (def. 2), toughness (def. 2)



easy to dent, work, or cut without shattering; malleable
not hard; giving little or no resistance to pressure or weight
fine, light, smooth, or fluffy to the touch
gentle; tranquil
(of music, sounds, etc) low and pleasing
(of light, colour, etc) not excessively bright or harsh
(of a breeze, climate, etc) temperate, mild, or pleasant
dialect drizzly or rainya soft day; the weather has turned soft
slightly blurred; not sharply outlinedsoft focus
(of a diet) consisting of easily digestible foods
kind or lenient, often excessively so
easy to influence or impose upon
prepared to compromise; not doctrinairethe soft left
informal feeble or silly; simple (often in the phrase soft in the head)
unable to endure hardship, esp through too much pampering
physically out of condition; flabbysoft muscles
loving; tendersoft words
informal requiring little exertion; easya soft job
chem (of water) relatively free of mineral salts and therefore easily able to make soap lather
(of a drug such as cannabis) nonaddictive or only mildly addictiveCompare hard (def. 19)
(of news coverage) concentrating on trivial stories or those with human interest
  1. an older word for lenis
  2. (not in technical usage) denoting the consonants c and g in English when they are pronounced as palatal or alveolar fricatives or affricates (s, / /, / ʃ /, / ð /, / /) before e and i, rather than as velar stops (k, g)
  3. (in the Slavonic languages) palatalized before a front vowel or a special character (soft sign) written as Ь
  1. unprotected against attacka soft target
  2. militaryunarmoured, esp as applied to a truck by comparison with a tank
finance, mainly US (of prices, a market, etc) unstable and tending to decline
(of a currency) in relatively little demand, esp because of a weak balance of payments situation
(of radiation, such as X-rays and ultraviolet radiation) having low energy and not capable of deep penetration of materials
physics (of valves or tubes) only partially evacuated
related to the performance of non-specific, undefinable taskssoft skills such as customer services and office support
soft on or soft about
  1. gentle, sympathetic, or lenient towards
  2. feeling affection or infatuation for


in a soft mannerto speak soft


a soft object, part, or piece
informal See softie

interjection archaic

Derived Formssoftly, adverb

Word Origin for soft

Old English sōfte; related to Old Saxon sāfti, Old High German semfti gentle
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 softness

Old English softnes "ease, comfort; state of being soft to the touch; luxury;" see soft (adj.) + -ness. Meaning "weakness of character, effeminacy" is from c.1600.



Old English softe, earlier sefte, "gentle, mild-natured; easeful, comfortable, calm, undisturbed; luxurious," from West Germanic *samfti, from Proto-Germanic *samftijaz "level, even, smooth, gentle, soft" (cf. Old Saxon safti, Old High German semfti, German sanft; and from a variant form with -ch- for -f-, Middle Dutch sachte, Dutch zacht, German sacht), from root *som- "fitting, agreeable."

From c.1200 of material things, "not stiff, not coarse, fine; yielding to weight." From late 14c. of wind, rain, etc. Of sounds, "quiet, not loud," from early 13c. Of words, "mild, restrained; courteous" mid-14c. From late 14c. as "indulgent," also "physically feeble; easily overcome, lacking manly courage." From 1755 of water ("relatively free from mineral salts"), from 1789 of coal. Meaning "foolish, simple, silly" is attested from 1620s; earlier "easily moved or swayed; soft-hearted, sympathetic; docile" (early 13c.). In reference to drinks, "non-alcoholic" from 1880. As an adverb, Old English softe "gently;" late 13c. as "quietly." As an interjection from 1540s.

Soft landing is from 1958 and the U.S. space program. Adjective soft-core (in reference to pornography) is from 1966 (cf. hardcore). Soft rock as a music style is attested from 1969. Soft sell is from 1955. Soft-shoe as a dancing style is attested from 1927. Soft-boiled is from 1757 of eggs; of persons, ideas, etc., 1930 (cf. half-baked). Soft-focus (adj.) of camera shots is from 1917. The softer sex "women collectively" is from 1640s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with softness


In addition to the idioms beginning with soft

  • soften up
  • soft in the head
  • soft job
  • soft on
  • soft pedal
  • soft sell
  • soft soap
  • soft spot
  • soft touch

also see:

  • hard (soft) sell
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.