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soft (adj.)
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" (source also of 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 (see 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 (compare half-baked). Soft-focus (adj.) of camera shots is from 1917. The softer sex "women collectively" is from 1640s.
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soft-hearted (adj.)
also softhearted, 1590s, from soft (adj.) "tender" + -hearted. Related: Soft-heartedly; soft-heartedness.
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soft-soap (n.)
1630s, from soft (adj.) + soap (n.). Figurative sense "flattery" is recorded from 1830.
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soft-pedal (v.)
"to tone down," 1915, figurative use from the noun (1856) in reference to the left foot-lever of a piano, which makes it quieter among other effects; from soft (adj.) + pedal (n.).
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softly (adv.)
early 13c., "gently," from soft (adj.) + -ly (2).
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software (n.)
1851, soft wares, "woolen or cotton fabrics," also, "relatively perishable consumer goods," from soft + ware (n.). The computer sense is a separate coinage from 1960, based on hardware.
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softness (n.)
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.
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softy (n.)
also softie, 1863, "silly person," from soft (adj.) + -y (3). Meaning "soft-hearted person" is from 1886; that of "weak, unmanly or effeminate man" is from 1895. The Mister Softee soft ice-cream operation began in Philadelphia, U.S., in 1956.
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