I have come across the definition somewhere,"Work hardening, also known as strain hardening, is the strengthening of a metal or polymer by plastic deformation. This strengthening occurs because of dislocation movements and dislocation generation within the crystal structure of the material."Now I have been told by my professor that strain hardening and work hardening are different.I would like to have a detailed answer on this.

  • $\begingroup$ I have always used the terms interchangeably, although perhaps wrongly! It seems odd that your professor would state that they're different without describing the differences? Have you asked him/her? $\endgroup$ Nov 20, 2018 at 14:52
  • $\begingroup$ Searching for "strain hardening work hardening" on Google, the first hit starts "Work hardening, also known as strain hardening …" and the second "Strain hardening (also called work-hardening or cold-working) …" Sorry, but we can't read your professors mind - you will have to ask him yourself what he thinks the difference is! $\endgroup$
    – alephzero
    Nov 20, 2018 at 15:58
  • $\begingroup$ "the definition somewhere" well where? $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Nov 20, 2018 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ I checked with my old textbook not so old btw, in the index i searched for work hardening it says 'see strain hardening', so i think you confuse the terms. Or you know the there is a chance that your professor showed up hangover that day $\endgroup$
    – user14407
    Nov 20, 2018 at 17:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Your professor is wrong. These terms mean the same thing. Work hardening is the older term and comes from practitioners and smiths. The term strain hardening started to be used after scientific researchers observed that increasing strains led to higher yield stresses. $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2018 at 20:27

1 Answer 1


There is stress and strain hardening. Stress hardening is done under compression. Strain hardening occurs under tension and is ultimately destructive. Strain hardening occurs due to repetitive bending that induces material fractures to increase whereas stress hardening is compression of material to increase surface contact between molecular or crystalline structures of the material to increase internal structural friction.

Stress hardening is how steel manufacture is used to increase hardness of material after annealing.

  • $\begingroup$ I dont find it exactly inplausible that we would have a different term for designed aplication of phenomena a different term for a undesigned one. For example we call a intentionally water filled rectangle a pond or pool wheras a unintentionally filled one a flood. $\endgroup$
    – joojaa
    Nov 23, 2018 at 5:31
  • $\begingroup$ I can see where that is plausible but the op wanted to know what the technical difference was so I asked my university professor, Dr Marina Bock of University of Wolverhampton whose specialist field of expertise is structural steel fabrication with Tata Steel for 28 years. The answer I have was her explanation so the -1 vote shows peer understanding is -1. As a current student of Civil Engineering, I am required to know this stuff also. Anyway, it's only -1. $\endgroup$
    – Rhodie
    Nov 25, 2018 at 0:19
  • $\begingroup$ yes thats my point. Anyway fileds are large so while in other parts these terms are exactly interchangeable, it might not be in all. That's why i thought a -2 was a bit harsh. Language is not always entirely fixed even in academia. I know several cases where the language used depends on what subfield you follow, even so badly that reading the other fields texts with the other fields definitions makes it unintelligible. PS: Anyway never bring out appeal to your own authority on a forum like this. Just link to a extenal authority saying so. $\endgroup$
    – joojaa
    Nov 25, 2018 at 8:51

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