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See also: émollient



From French émollient, from Latin emolliēns, present active participle of ēmolliō (make soft), from ex- + molliō, from mollis (soft).



emollient (plural emollients)

  1. Something which softens or lubricates the skin; moisturizer.
    • 2008, Carol A. Miller, Nursing for Wellness in Older Adults (Fifth edition), Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, p. 505,
      [T]he effectiveness of an emollient is based on its ability to prevent water evaporation, []
  2. (figurative) Anything soothing the mind, or that makes something more acceptable.
    • 1848, Mr. Jolly Green, “The visit of the French national guards to London”, in The New Monthly Magazine[1]:
      "Several of the visitors then partook for a short time, with evident Parisian gusto, of the pleasures of the dance," yes--we did, and the lovely girls with whom we polked (ladies being one of the Club emollients) were eloquent in praise of our exquisite tournures which were shown to such advantage beneath our tight uniforms.
    • 1879, W[illiam] S[chwenck] Gilbert, Arthur Sullivan, composer, The Pirates of Penzance  [], Philadelphia: J.M. Stoddart & Co., published 1880, →OCLC:
      Hail, Poetry, thou heav’n-born maid! / Thou gildest e’en the pirate’s trade. / Hail, flowing fount of sentiment! / All hail, divine emollient!
    • 2004, David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas, London: Hodder and Stoughton, →ISBN, page 5:
      Attentive conversation is an emollient I lack sorely aboard Prophetess & the doctor is a veritable polymath.



emollient (comparative more emollient, superlative most emollient)

  1. Moisturizing.
    • 1827 May 1, “XXVI. Spreading Ulcer of the Nose.”, in James Copland, John Darwall, John Conolly, editors, The London Medical Repository and Review, volume XXVII, number 161 (New Series, volume IV, number XXIII), London: Printed for Thomas and John Underwood, 32 Fleet Street, →OCLC, page 465:
      Twenty leeches were ordered to be applied round the nose every two days; frequent emollient fomentations; the local vapour bath; general bathing; stimulating pedilavia; a strict regimen; vegetables, milk, white meats; demulcent or acidulated drinks; avoidance of exposure to the sun or to cold air; flannel waistcoat and trousers. This treatment, being strictly observed for two months, caused all the inflammatory symptoms to disappear, []
  2. (figurative) Soothing or mollifying.
    • 1749, [Thomas Short], “[Of the Symptoms of Fevers, and Their Cure.] 10th, Of Feverish Heat”, in A General Chronological History of the Air, Weather, Seasons, Meteors, &c. in Sundry Places and Different Times; More Particularly for the Space of 250 Years. Together with Some of Their Most Remarkable Effects on Animal (Especially Human) Bodies, and Vegetables. In Two Volumes, volume II, Printed for T[homas] Longman, in Paternoster-Row, and A[ndrew] Millar, in the Strand, →OCLC, pages 512–513:
      [I]nſtead of Honey, Rob of Elder, Conſerve of Roſes, or Syrup of Violets; Glyſters, Pedilavia of emollient Decoctions with Nitre; or Elder, Vinegar, or Focus's of the ſame, applied with Sponges behind the Ears, to the Armpits, Groins, Hams, &c. or with Barley-water and a little Roſe-vinegar.
    • 2021 July 11, Peter Bradshaw, “Three Floors review – Nanni Moretti melodrama lacks profundity”, in The Guardian[2], →ISSN:
      There is an element of emollient sentimentality, especially in the way the plot lines are neatly tied up, but a good deal of storytelling gusto and ingenuity, and there are also echoes (perhaps deliberately engineered) of Moretti’s greatest film and Cannes Palme d’Or winner, The Son’s Room, from 2001.
    • 2023 November 4, Madhumita Murgia, Anna Gross, Cristina Criddle, “Summit exposes tensions over AI development despite emollient Chinese tone”, in FT Weekend, page 12:
      Summit exposes tensions over AI development despite emollient Chinese tone [title]


Related terms[edit]




  1. third-person plural future active indicative of ēmolliō