The song “Killing Me Softly” by Roberta Flack is a classic that has been remade by many artists and stood the test of time. One might be confused, however, by the meaning of the title phrase “killing me softly.” Here we provide context and meaning to this seemingly contradictory phrase.
What Does “Killing Me Softly” Mean?
The phrase “killing me softly” is a way of expressing a strong feeling of emotional pain that is not brought on by something harsh, violent, or angry, but rather, it is brought about by something soft, gentle, and maybe even beautiful-something you wouldn’t expect to cause pain.
One definition in The Cambridge Dictionary for the word “kill” is “to stop or destroy a relationship, activity, or experience,” and another definition is “to cause someone a lot of pain.”
For the word “softly” The Cambridge Dictionary says it means “gently.”
Based on these definitions, one could say that the phrase “killing me softly,” could also mean something like “gently destroying my experience,” or “gently causing me a lot of pain.”
Meaning Of The Song “Killing Me Softly” By Roberta Flack
The song “Killing Me Softly” refers to Roberta Flack’s experience of listening to a performer on stage who is singing a song that resonates deeply within her and feels very personal. Her emotions range from feelings of pain to deep embarrassment with each word of the song.
As she listens to the performance, she connects on an intimate level with every word in the song. The line “strumming my pain with his fingers,” means that every time the musician plays a note on the guitar it ignites a feeling of suffering within her.
She then talks about how he is “singing my life with his words,” and says “I felt he found my letters and read each one aloud.” These two lines indicate that even though she doesn’t personally know the singer, she feels as though in some way he knows everything about her. It feels to her like he’s read her private written words and is exposing them for everyone to hear.
At this point, Flack expresses many feelings of embarrassment such as “I felt all flushed with fever; embarrassed by the crowd.” and “I prayed that he would finish, but he just kept right on.”
These phrases about embarrassment indicate that she is “dying of embarrassment” from the song, but at the same time, the song is gentle and beautiful. Hence the phrase “killing me softly.” She wants it to stop because she is embarrassed, but doesn’t want it to because it is beautiful.
Is “Killing Me Softly” A Metaphor?
The phrase “killing me softly” is a metaphor because it means something that is different from the typically literal meaning of the words that make up the phrase. Flack is not literally being “killed” by the song in the sense that someone is physically taking her life.
A metaphor is when a word or phrase that means a specific object or idea is used in place of another word or phrase to suggest a commonality between them.
In the expression “killing me softly,” the word “killing” is being used in this manner. If someone were literally killing another person, there would be great physical pain involved. Here, the word “killing” is not meant in the sense of physical pain, but emotional pain. The emotional pain is so powerful that she feels like she is physically dying in a way.
Examples Of How To Use “Killing Me Softly” In A Sentence
The phrase “killing me softly” will always be most commonly associated with the song of the same name. It is not typically a frequent expression in the English Language. However, it could be used to describe any instance when something subtle or beautiful makes another person feel intense emotional pain.
Here are some example sentences showing how you might use this phrase in this particular context.
- Seeing how happy my ex-boyfriend was with his new wife was killing me softly inside because even though I knew they were perfect together, I couldn’t get over our past relationship.
- The book was written so beautifully and truthfully that it was killing me softly with each sentence I read-I felt such a connection to the author and his experience.
“Killing Me Softly” – Synonyms
There are certainly other words and phrases that one can use to express the concept of feeling such a strong emotional feeling that it almost feels like physical pain. Some options include:
- Breaking my heart
- Making my heart ache
- Tormenting my soul
- Exposing my pain
- Making me die a little
Notice how if you replaced the phrase “killing me softly” with any of these five other phrases, it would not change the meaning or overall message of the song. They are all ways that can express a person feeling some sort of powerful emotional pain and feeling vulnerable.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.