One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1Sport (chiefly racket sports and volleyball). A winning shot which is struck with little or no force, typically deceiving an opponent who is preparing for a faster, more powerful strike; especially one which falls to the ground immediately after crossing the net.
2Military (originally US). The action or an act of disabling an enemy target without the use of destructive force, especially by disrupting or impairing communication or radar equipment, missile guidance systems, etc. Frequently attributive, designating action of this kind or weapons systems used for it.
Early 20th century; earliest use found in Baily's Monthly Magazine of Sports and Pastimes. From soft + kill.
soft kill/ˌsɒf(t) ˈkɪl/
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