# Are state variables defined outside equilibrium?

State functions seem to always be described as relating state variables in equilibrium, wikipedia about state functions:

In thermodynamics, a state function, [...] is a function defined for a system relating several state variables [...] that depends only on the current equilibrium thermodynamic state of the system (e.g. gas, liquid, solid, crystal, or emulsion), not the path which the system took to reach its present state.

The German wikipedia about state variables states that if all state variables are constant in time, the system is in thermodynamic equilibrium. Leading me to believe, they may be at least defined outside of equilibrium.

Am I understanding it correctly if I say, that they are only well defined in thermodynamic equilibrium, at least partial equilibrium, meaning thermal, mechanical or chemical respectively, allowing at least the corresponding state variables to be well defined?

Would this be sensible definitions, based on this?

State variable: A Measurable macroscopic quantity that is only well defined, in the sense of describing the state of a system, if it is constant in time. And that is not subject to hysteresis.

State function: A function between state variables, that are well defined and thus in equilibrium.

Where equilibrium just means the state variables in consideration are constant in time and no macroscopic fluxes are occurring. I hesitate to use the thermodynamic equilibrium in the state functions definition, because the zeroth law of thermodynamics only requires thermal equilibrium to measure temperature, so full thermodynamic equilibrium can not always be required.

Clarification: Maybe the question really is: We can measure variables like pressure at any point in time, but does it become a state variables only, when they it is constant in time, so we can be sure, that they represent the average in an equilibrium sense, and not just a short snapshot in time?

Take an isolated system for the sake of argument. In this case the internal energy and the volume are well-defined ideas whether or not the system is in internal equilibrium. Quantities such as pressure and temperature are not necessarily well-defined out of equilibrium. In some states they are, in some they are not. Entropy can be defined even for out-of-equilibrium states with a bit of care. One models the system as many parts, each small enough to be in internal equilibrium but large enough to be distinguishable from each other and have a thermodynamic entropy $$S_i$$. Then the total entropy is $$S = \sum_i S_i$$ Having done all that, you could now take an interest in $$\partial S/\partial U$$ even for out-of-equilibrium states, and you could argue that this fits the the bill for $$1/T$$, but usually we reserve the name 'temperature' for equilibrium states.