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baseball of larger than usual size, used in a scaled-down version of the game, 1914, from soft + ball (n.1). The game itself so called from 1926, earlier known as playground baseball. The word earlier was a term in sugar candy making (1894). Softball question, one that is easy to answer, is attested from 1976.
Trivial and contemptible; nonserious: a softball question if ever there was one/ This softball performance by Democrats on the Judiciary Committee in the Thomas hearings left many in a huge TV audience wondering what legitimate claim to national power this bumbling crowd could possibly have
[1970s+; based on hardball]