Verb > Mollify

Verb – Mollify

This word has Latin roots that mean “to make soft.”

We hardly ever use the literal sense of this word: “to make soft,” as in “to mollify rough hair.” Here’s Sylvia Plath: “Water mollifies the flint lip, And daylight lays its sameness on the wall.”

Most of the time, we use this word figuratively. To mollify angry people is to soften their hearts or soften their moods: to make them calmer and more peaceful.

MALL if eye

Part of speech:
Verb, the transitive kind: things mollify people, or people mollify other people.

Other forms:
mollified, mollifying, mollifyingly, mollifier(s), mollification

How to use it:
Pick the word “mollify” when you’re talking about soothing people who are angry, bitter, or hurt–regardless of intention. That is, you might mollify people because you truly want to help them, or because you need them to hush up or fall in line.

Talk about people, words, actions, offerings and so on that mollify people–either individuals (“her profuse apologies mollified Effie”) or groups (“the new legislation mollified advocates for gun control”).

Often we mollify people with something (“she mollified them with a compromise”) or we mollify people by doing something (“she mollified them by agreeing to a compromise”).

It’s a good thing if you can mollify someone, but since that’s not always possible, we often use the word “mollify” negatively: “the promise failed to mollify the protesters,” “the voters won’t be mollified by these vague assurances,” “the staff tried, unsuccessfully, to mollify him with a glazed donut.”

“I was too tired to care about Oliver and in a detached, exhausted way I heard him resentfully banging the parts of the cot together. We rubbed along for a couple of weeks: me mollifying him with flattery and good food, him quoting the Bible and strumming his guitar.”
— Cora Coleman, Nobody’s Child, 2007

“Krum was looking more and more suspicious.
‘How do you know Gregorovitch made my vand?’
‘I … I read it somewhere, I think,’ said Harry. ‘In a – a fan magazine,’ he improvised wildly and Krum looked mollified.”

— J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 2015