adj., adv., & n.
adj. 1 (of a substance, material, etc.) lacking hardness or firmness; yielding to pressure; easily cut. 2 (of cloth etc.) having a smooth surface or texture; not rough or coarse. 3 (of air etc.) mellow, mild, balmy; not noticeably cold or hot. 4 (of water) free from mineral salts and therefore good for lathering. 5 (of a light or colour etc.) not brilliant or glaring. 6 (of a voice or sounds) gentle and pleasing. 7 Phonet. a (of a consonant) sibilant or palatal (as c in ice, g in age). b voiced or unaspirated. 8 (of an outline etc.) not sharply defined. 9 (of an action or manner etc.) gentle, conciliatory, complimentary, amorous. 10 (of the heart or feelings etc.) compassionate, sympathetic. 11 (of a person's character or attitude etc.) feeble, lenient, silly, sentimental. 12 colloq. (of a job etc.) easy. 13 (of drugs) mild; not likely to cause addiction. 14 (of radiation) having little penetrating power. 15 (also soft-core) (of pornography) suggestive or erotic but not explicit. 16 Stock Exch. (of currency, prices, etc.) likely to fall in value. 17 Polit. moderate; willing to compromise (the soft left). 18 peaceful (soft slumbers). 19 Brit. (of the weather etc.) rainy or moist or thawing.
adv. softly (play soft).
n. a silly weak person. be soft on colloq. 1 be lenient towards. 2 be infatuated with. have a soft spot for be fond of or affectionate towards (a person). soft answer a good-tempered answer to abuse or an accusation. soft-boiled (of an egg) lightly boiled with the yolk soft or liquid. soft-centred (of a person) soft-hearted, sentimental. soft coal bituminous coal. soft detergent a biodegradable detergent. soft drink a non-alcoholic drink. soft focus Photog. the slight deliberate blurring of a picture. soft fruit Brit. small stoneless fruit (strawberry, currant, etc.). soft furnishings Brit. curtains, rugs, etc. soft goods Brit. textiles. soft-headed feeble-minded. soft-headedness feeble-mindedness. soft-land make a soft landing . soft landing a landing by a spacecraft without its suffering major damage. soft option the easier alternative. soft palate the rear part of the palate. soft-paste denoting an 'artificial' porcelain containing glassy materials and fired at a comparatively low temperature. soft pedal a pedal on a piano that makes the tone softer. soft-pedal v.tr. & (often foll. by on) intr. (-pedalled, -pedalling; US -pedaled, -pedaling) 1 refrain from emphasizing; be restrained (about). 2 play with the soft pedal down. soft roe see ROE(1). soft sell restrained or subtly persuasive salesmanship. soft-sell v.tr. (past and past part. -sold) sell by this method. soft soap 1 a semifluid soap made with potash. 2 colloq. persuasive flattery. soft-soap v.tr. colloq. persuade (a person) with flattery. soft-spoken speaking with a gentle voice. soft sugar granulated or powdered sugar. soft tack bread or other good food (opp. hard tack). soft tissues tissues of the body that are not bony or cartilaginous. soft touch colloq. a gullible person, esp. over money. soft wicket a wicket with moist or sodden turf. softish adj. softness n.
[ OE softe agreeable, earlier sefte f. WG ]