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soft (sôft, sŏft)
adj. soft·er, soft·est
a. Yielding readily to pressure or weight: a soft melon; a soft pillow.
b. Easily molded, cut, or worked: soft wood.
c. Sports Not tense and therefore capable of absorbing the impact of a ball or puck and of catching, receiving, or controlling it: a receiver with soft hands.
2. Out of condition; flabby: got soft sitting at a desk all day.
3. Smooth or fine to the touch: a soft fabric; soft fur.
a. Not loud, harsh, or irritating: a soft voice.
b. Not brilliant or glaring; subdued: soft colors.
5. Not sharply drawn or delineated: soft charcoal shading; a scene filmed in soft focus.
6. Mild; balmy: a soft breeze.
a. Tender or affectionate: a soft glance.
b. Attracted or emotionally involved: He has been soft on her for years.
c. Not stern; lenient: a coach who was soft on his players.
d. Lacking strength of character; weak: too soft for the pressure of being a spy.
e. Informal Simple-minded or foolish: He's soft in the head.
a. Not demanding or difficult; easy: a soft job.
b. Based on conciliation or compromise: took a soft line toward their opponents.
c. Gradually declining in trend; not firm: a soft economy; a soft computer market.
d. Sports Scored on a shot that the goalie should have blocked: a soft goal.
9. Informal and entertaining without confronting difficult issues or hard facts: limited the discussion to soft topics.
10. Using or based on data that is not readily quantifiable or amenable to experimental verification or refutation: The lawyer downplayed the soft evidence.
11. Softcore.
12. Being a turn in a specific direction at an angle less acute than other possible routes: a soft right.
13. Of or relating to a paper currency as distinct from a hard currency backed by gold.
14. Having low dissolved mineral content: soft water.
a. Nonalcoholic.
b. Nonaddictive or mildly addictive. Used of certain drugs.
16. Having a low or lower power of penetration: soft x-rays.
17. Linguistics
a. Sibilant rather than guttural, as c in certain and g in gem.
b. Voiced and weakly articulated: a soft consonant.
c. Palatalized, as certain consonants in Slavic languages.
18. Unprotected against or vulnerable to attack: a soft target.
In a soft manner; gently.

[Middle English, pleasant, calm, from Old English sōfte.]

softly adv.
softness n.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.