• WordNet 3.6
    • v soften become soft or softer "The bread will soften if you pour some liquid on it"
    • v soften make soft or softer "This liquid will soften your laundry"
    • v soften lessen in force or effect "soften a shock","break a fall"
    • v soften make less severe or harsh "He moderated his tone when the students burst out in tears"
    • v soften protect from impact "cushion the blow"
    • v soften make (images or sounds) soft or softer
    • v soften give in, as to influence or pressure
    • ***
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
  • Interesting fact: More than 5,000 years ago, the Chinese discovered how to make silk from silkworm cocoons. For about 3,000 years, the Chinese kept this discovery a secret. Because poor people could not afford real silk, they tried to make other cloth look silky. Women would beat on cotton with sticks to soften the fibers. Then they rubbed it against a big stone to make it shiny. The shiny cotton was called "chintz." Because chintz was a cheaper copy of silk, calling something "chintzy" means it is cheap and not of good quality.
    • v. i Soften To become soft or softened, or less rude, harsh, severe, or obdurate.
    • v. t Soften To make soft or more soft. "Their arrow's point they soften in the flame.""Diffidence conciliates the proud, and softens the severe.""Music can soften pain to ease.""All that cheers or softens life.""He bore his great commision in his look,
      But tempered awe, and softened all he spoke."
    • ***
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • soften To become soft or less hard. To become more penetrable, pliable, and yielding to pressure: as, iron softens with heat.
    • soften To become less rude, harsh, severe, or cruel; grow less obstinate or obdurate; become more susceptible of humane feelings and tenderness; relent.
    • soften To pass by soft, imperceptible degrees; melt; blend.
    • soften To make soft, or more soft. To make less hard in substance.
    • soften To mollify; make less fierce or intractable; make more susceptible of humane or fine feelings: as, to soften a hard heart; to soften savage natures.
    • soften To make tender; make effeminate; enervate: as, troops softened by luxury.
    • soften To make less harsh or severe, less rude, less offensive or violent; mitigate: as, to soften an expression.
    • soften To make less glaring; tone down; make less sharp or harsh: as, to soften the coloring of a picture; to soften the outline of something.
    • soften To make less strong or intense in sound; make less loud; make smooth to the ear: as, to soften the voice.
    • soften To remove from (natural water) the hardness due to the presence of salts of calcium or magnesium in solution. In the case of temporary hardness, boiling the water or adding to it a carefully determined proportion of calcium hydroxid is used to produce softening; in the case of permanent hardness, sodium carbonate, not in too large excess, may be added. See hardness, 2.
    • ***
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • v.t Soften to make soft or softer: to mitigate: to tone down, make less glaring, make smoother in sound
    • ***


  • William James
    “It is well for the world that in most of us, by the age of thirty, the character has set like plaster, and will never soften again.”
  • Charles Dickens
    “It opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes, and softens down the temper; so cry away.”
  • Robert Louis Stevenson
    “Give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere. Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind, spare to us our friends, soften to us our enemies.”
  • George Orwell
    “No advance in wealth, no softening of manners, no reform or revolution has ever brought human equality a millimeter nearer.”
  • Joseph Addison
    “Our friends don't see our faults, or conceal them, or soften them.”
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt
    “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel in order to be tough.”


Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
A.S. sófte, séfte; Dut. zacht, Ger. sanft.


In literature:

The tense, worn face softens.
"Floyd Grandon's Honor" by Amanda Minnie Douglas
She shook her head, but she softened at the swift look of disappointment in his face.
"The Snowshoe Trail" by Edison Marshall
And then how his bright frank eyes would soften!
"Robert Elsmere" by Mrs. Humphry Ward
But this angelic behaviour did not soften them.
"Fairy Tales of the Slav Peasants and Herdsmen" by Alexander Chodsko
No: I will visit my Lady Lettice myself, and soften the thing as best I may to her and to Mrs Louvaine.
"It Might Have Been" by Emily Sarah Holt
Her hand was still against every man, and her look did not soften.
"The Opened Shutters" by Clara Louise Burnham
His stern eyes would soften at such times to a sort of caressing expression.
"A Son of Hagar" by Sir Hall Caine
His sad features softened all at once.
"Casa Braccio, Volumes 1 and 2 (of 2)" by F. Marion Crawford
His set face softened.
"The Convert" by Elizabeth Robins
Masters thought it best to soften the humiliation of his associate as much as possible by forestalling his proposition.
"The Faith Doctor" by Edward Eggleston

In poetry:

The rapture of a moment
Came suddenly to me;
With softened glance he asked me,
'Could you learn to think of me?'
"First Love" by Nora Pembroke
O Mistress, Mistress,
Reptile mistress,
Your eye is very dark, very bright,
And it never softens
Although you watch.
"Lui Et Elle" by D H Lawrence
The busy tongues have ceased to talk,
Or speak in softened tone,
So gracious in her daily walk
The angel light has shown.
"Agnes" by Oliver Wendell Holmes
To plead the captive's right; remove
The sting of hate from Law;
And soften in the fire of love
The hardened steel of War.
"William Forster" by John Greenleaf Whittier
'With thy husband, from this happy clime,
I had seen thee for ever depart!
Still hoping affection and time
Might soften the pride of his heart:
"The Old Fisherman" by Matilda Betham
O for grace our hearts to soften!
Teach us, Lord, at length to love;
We, alas! forget too often,
What a Friend we have above:
But when home our souls are brought,
We will love thee as we ought.
"A Friend That Sticketh Closer Than A Brother" by John Newton

In news:

Obama, Romney positions on gun restrictions have softened over the years.
Little boy's brain cancer struggle softened by outpouring of support.
Thatcher's "Iron Lady" Image Softened by Movie.
Restaurant Capital Spending Up Even on Softened Outlook Jul 1, 2010 Printable format Email this Article Search.
Indiana: Lawyer's Punishment Softened .
Texans say softened EPA rule could still cause blackouts.
Water Softener Launched with Skin and Hair Benefits.
The team's two annual water softener salt sales bring in nearly $30,000 dollars each year that help pay down the debt on Veterans Field.
To see firsthand how we test fabric softeners and all the products we recommend, sign up for a tour of our Good Housekeeping Research Institute.
We've used a number of portable water softeners that have a large enough capacity for washing coaches over the years and most are bulky and heavy to maneuver.
He thinks most fabric softeners would have the same effect.
Every 10th Water Softener that The Pampering Plumber supplies and installs is FREE.
A Fleeting Hint of Softening in Germany's Debt Stance.
Republican hard-liners softening on immigration.
Belo reports third-quarter net profit, warns of softening in October.

In science:

If one follows only the extra lower branch, the spin excitation spectrum appears to show a significant softening.
Anomaly in Spin Excitation Spectrum of Double-Exchange Systems with Randomness
Gas forces were also limited by fixing the minimum SPH smoothing radius to the gravitational softening 2hmin = ǫs .
The impact of galaxy formation on X-ray groups
The steep entropy gradient between the convection and radiation boundary (r ∼ 0.15R∗ ) has been softened.
Looking Deep Within an A-type Star: Core Convection Under the Influence of Rotation
There does appear to be a softening towards the edge of the superwind.
First Look XMM-Newton EPIC Observations of the Prototypical Starburst Galaxy M82
Both these effects are responsible for the softening of the wind emission.
First Look XMM-Newton EPIC Observations of the Prototypical Starburst Galaxy M82