Soft, bland, mild, gentle, smooth, lenient, balmy are applied to things with respect to the sensations they evoke or the impressions they produce and mean pleasantly agreeable because devoid of all harshness or roughness.
Soft is applied chiefly to what soothes, calms, or induces a sensation of delicious quiet.
This positive connotation is often apparent in the use of soft even when its major implication is the absence or the subduing of some quality (as pungency, vividness, intensity, or force); thus, a soft fragrance is lacking in richness but is quietly agreeable and not overpowering; a soft color is lacking in vividness, but it is mellow rather than dull; a soft voice though lacking in resonance is not faint or feeble but is pleasantly low and without harshness or stridency.
Bland (see also SUAVE ) may be interchangeable with soft, but it generally suggests smoothness and suavity and stresses the absence of whatever might disturb, excite, stimulate, or irritate; thus, foods and beverages which are not unpleasant to the taste yet tend toward the insipid or are lacking in pungency, tang, or richness of flavor or ingredients may be described as bland; a bland climate not only is free from extremes but is neither stimulating nor depressing.
Both mild and gentle stress moderation; they are applied chiefly to things that are not, as they might be or often are, harsh, rough, strong, violent, unduly stimulating, or irritating and are therefore pleasant or agreeable by contrast.
However, both words are capable of connoting positively pleasurable sensations, mild often being applied to what induces a feeling of quiet measured beauty or of serenity and gentle to what evokes a mood of placidity or tranquillity, or a sense of restrained power or force.
Smooth (see also EASY LEVEL ) in most of its senses suggests the absence or removal of all unevennesses or obstacles (as to use or enjoyment); often it comes close to mild in stressing the pleasant quality of what might be harsh or irritating, but unlike mild and bland it rarely if ever hints at weakness or insipidness. Distinctively it may approach mellow (which see under MATURE ) and suggest qualities of excellence that come with time (as through ripening or aging) or are the result of careful and skilled handling that eliminates all harshness.
In reference to persons or their works and accomplishments (as in the arts) smooth may carry further the notion of care and skill in handling and suggest a polished finish stemming from experienced knowledgeability or craftsmanship or, in a less complimentary sense, a slick sophistication or meretricious attractiveness.
Lenient (see also FORBEARING ) is applicable chiefly to things that are grateful to the senses or to the mind because they exert an emollient, relaxing, softening, or assuasive influence.
Balmy also implies a soothing influence on the senses or mind, but beyond this it suggests refreshment and sometimes exhilaration. Coupled with one or another of these implications there is also frequently a suggestion of fragrance, especially the aromatic fragrance of balm -producing trees.