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That which dampens, diminishes, or downplays the importance or impact of something. Hyphenated if used before a noun as a modifier. It's unsurprising to me that the board decided to apply a soft pedal to our plans for expansion, giving the recent uncertainty in the market. The president's plan has been criticized as a soft-pedal approach to dealing with the potential of nuclear weapons in an already turbulent region.
To dampen, diminish, or downplay the importance or impact of something. An allusion to the dampening effects of a piano's soft pedal. You really need to soft-pedal your rhetoric if you want to win over enough mainstream voters to get re-elected. The university has been soft-pedaling its association with the controversial activist in recent months.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
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® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.