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soft pedal

noun
1.
Also called una corda pedal. a pedal, as on a piano, for reducing tonal volume.
2.
Informal. something that restrains or dampens:
to put a soft pedal on one's enthusiasm.
Origin
1920-1925
1920-25

soft-pedal

[sawft-ped-l, soft-] /ˌsɔftˈpɛd l, ˌsɒft-/
verb (used without object), soft-pedaled, soft-pedaling or (especially British) soft-pedalled, soft-pedalling.
1.
to use the soft pedal.
verb (used with object), soft-pedaled, soft-pedaling or (especially British) soft-pedalled, soft-pedalling.
2.
to soften the sound of by using the soft pedal.
3.
Informal. to tone or play down; make less strong, as an idea or fact:
The dean soft-pedaled the reports of cheating.
Origin
1915-20; v. use of noun phrase soft pedal
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for soft-pedal

soft-pedal

verb (transitive) -als, -alling, -alled (US) -als, -aling, -aled
1.
to mute the tone of (a piano) by depressing the soft pedal
2.
(informal) to make (something, esp something unpleasant) less obvious by deliberately failing to emphasize or allude to it
noun
3.
a foot-operated lever on a piano, the left one of two, that either moves the whole action closer to the strings so that the hammers strike with less force or causes fewer of the strings to sound Compare sustaining pedal, piano1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for 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.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for soft-pedal

soft-pedal

verb

To make less prominent; deemphasize; downplay: Even my friends advised me to soft-pedal my criticisms

[1915+; fr the pedal on a piano that softens the notes played]


The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with soft-pedal

soft pedal

Something that de-emphasizes, restrains, or plays down, as in The mayor put a soft pedal on this potentially explosive situation. This expression alludes to the una corda or soft pedal of the piano, which reduces the volume of the sound. It gave rise to the verb soft-pedal, meaning both “reduce the volume of” or “make less emphatic, downplay.” [ Early 1900s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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7
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