having the power of softening or relaxing, as a medicinal substance; soothing, especially to the skin: emollient lotions for the face. relieving, palliative, healing, assuasive.
an emollient medicine, lotion, salve, etc.

1635–45; < Latin ēmollient- (stem of ēmolliēns) softening up (present participle of ēmollīre), equivalent to ē- e-1 + molli(s) soft + -ent- -ent

emollience, noun
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World English Dictionary
emollient (ɪˈmɒlɪənt)
1.  softening or soothing, esp to the skin
2.  helping to avoid confrontation; calming
3.  any preparation or substance that has a softening or soothing effect, esp when applied to the skin
[C17: from Latin ēmollīre to soften, from mollis soft]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

1643, from Fr. emollient, from L. emollientem (nom. emolliens), prp. of emollire "soften," from ex- "out" + mollire "soften," from mollis "soft."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

emollient e·mol·lient (ĭ-mŏl'yənt)
Softening and soothing, especially to the skin. n.
An agent that softens or soothes the skin.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Encyclopedia Britannica


any substance that softens the skin by slowing evaporation of water. Sesame, almond, and olive oils were used in ancient Egypt; beeswax, spermaceti, almond oil, borax, and rosewater in Greece; and lanolin (sheep fat) in medieval Europe. Modern emollients include petrolatum, zinc oxide, paraffin, mineral oil, glycerin, beeswax, olive oil, coconut oil, lanolin, cocoa butter, and such synthetics as butyl stearate and diglycol laurate.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
It works as an emollient and has germicidal properties.
The northerners' initial response has been emollient.
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