An emollient is a cream or ointment with a thick, gooey texture. When your hands are dry and cracked in the winter, you probably apply an emollient to make them softer.
Emollient comes from a Latin word with the same spelling, which means “to make soft.” The noun form of emollient refers to a substance that makes something soft. However, emollient can also be an adjective used to describe something with a softening or soothing effect. For example, the annoying child on the airplane might be soothed by the emollient sound of the pilot’s voice over the intercom.