The work function is the energy an electron needs to leave the metal. Why is it called a function? Its value is different for different metals, but that doesn't make it a function; density and melting point are not called functions either. The name function seems to suggest it is a mathematical function of a variable $x$. If the work function originally is/was a function $W(x)$, then what is $x$?


closed as off-topic by Aaron Stevens, John Rennie, ZeroTheHero, Bill N, Rory Alsop Jan 25 at 14:53

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    $\begingroup$ It takes as an input a metal and returns the energy needed to free an electronic, sounds like a function to me. The literal definition of a function is a map from one set to another $\endgroup$ – Triatticus Jan 24 at 13:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Triatticus Although I agree with you, why aren't we then calling density and melting point for functions as well, as is mentioned in the question? Why is specifically the work function termed like that? $\endgroup$ – Steeven Jan 24 at 13:40
  • $\begingroup$ I'm just saying that calling it a function isn't incorrect according to definition of a function, why some didn't call it a density function is unknown to me. But that doesn't mean work function is wrong $\endgroup$ – Triatticus Jan 24 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ This seems like more of a question on the history behind the term "work function". Would it be better suited on HSM? $\endgroup$ – Aaron Stevens Jan 24 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ Density is often labelled as a "state function" i.e., a function of the thermodynamic state. The same is true of temperature, pressure, internal energy... $\endgroup$ – user1476176 Jan 25 at 9:13