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Metal vs. Steel: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on January 3, 2024
Metal is a broad category of elements with high electrical and thermal conductivity, while steel is an alloy, primarily of iron and carbon, used for its strength and durability.

Key Differences

Metal encompasses a wide range of elements with conductive properties, including gold and aluminum, whereas steel is a specific alloy, mainly of iron and carbon.
Metals vary widely in properties like malleability and melting point, used in various applications, while steel, known for its strength and hardness, is used in construction and tools.
Metals are naturally occurring elements, some found in pure forms, while steel is man-made, produced by combining iron with carbon and other elements.
Metals have been used since ancient times in various forms, from currency to jewelry, whereas steel's development marked a significant advancement in building and weaponry.
Many metals are highly recyclable, reducing environmental impact, while steel, also recyclable, plays a crucial role in modern sustainable building practices.

Comparison Chart


Elements like gold, copper, iron
Alloy of iron with carbon


Varies widely, e.g., conductivity, malleability
Strong, durable, hard


Naturally occurring, often mined
Man-made alloy

Historical Significance

Used since ancient times in various cultures
Development marked technological advancement

Environmental Impact

Many are recyclable
Highly recyclable, important in sustainable construction

Metal and Steel Definitions


Metal is a material that is typically hard, shiny, and malleable.
The metal sculpture in the park was made of bronze.


Steel is an alloy primarily made of iron and carbon.
The bridge is constructed with reinforced steel beams.


Metal can be heated and shaped into various forms.
The blacksmith shaped the heated metal into a horseshoe.


Steel is used in construction and manufacturing.
Skyscrapers are often built using steel frameworks.


Metal is a substance with high electrical conductivity.
Copper, a metal, is widely used in electrical wiring.


Steel is known for its strength and durability.
The steel doors provided added security to the building.


Metal refers to elements found in the periodic table.
Gold is a precious metal valued for its rarity.


Steel can be tempered to increase its hardness.
The steel knife was tempered to ensure its sharpness.


Metal is used in a wide range of industrial applications.
The factory processes raw metal for car parts.


Steel plays a critical role in modern infrastructure.
The railway lines are made of high-quality steel.


Any of a category of electropositive elements that usually have a shiny surface, are generally good conductors of heat and electricity, and can be melted or fused, hammered into thin sheets, or drawn into wires. Typical metals form salts with nonmetals, basic oxides with oxygen, and alloys with one another.


A generally hard, strong, durable, malleable alloy of iron and carbon, usually containing between 0.2 and 1.5 percent carbon, often with other constituents such as manganese, chromium, nickel, molybdenum, copper, tungsten, cobalt, or silicon, depending on the desired alloy properties, and widely used as a structural material.


What is steel primarily made from?

Steel is an alloy mainly composed of iron and carbon.

Are all metals shiny and malleable?

Most metals are, but properties can vary significantly.

Can metals occur naturally?

Yes, many metals like gold and copper occur naturally.

How is steel made?

Steel is made by combining iron with carbon under high heat.

What defines a metal?

Metals are elements with high electrical and thermal conductivity.

What are the primary uses of steel?

Steel is widely used in construction, manufacturing, and tools.

Is stainless steel a type of steel?

Yes, it's a steel alloy with added chromium to prevent rust.

Are metals good conductors of electricity?

Yes, metals like copper and aluminum are excellent conductors.

What makes steel different from pure iron?

Steel is stronger and more durable due to its carbon content.

Are all metals solid at room temperature?

Most are, except for mercury, which is liquid.

Is steel considered a metal?

Yes, steel is a metal as it is an alloy containing iron.

Do metals have a high melting point?

Generally, yes, but it varies among different metals.

Is steel recyclable?

Yes, steel is highly recyclable.

Can steel be used in high-temperature applications?

Yes, certain steel alloys withstand very high temperatures.

Can metals be magnetic?

Some metals, like iron, are magnetic.

Are there metals in our bodies?

Yes, trace metals like iron and zinc are vital for health.

Is gold a metal?

Yes, gold is a soft, ductile metal.

Does the production of steel impact the environment?

Yes, it can, though recycling and new technologies are reducing its impact.

Can metals be transparent?

No, metals are typically opaque.

What role does carbon play in steel?

Carbon increases the hardness and strength of the steel.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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