1) A general term for several alloys of iron and carbon that have been produced artificially so as to have greater hardness and elasticity, making them more suitable for industrial purposes and the production of edge tools.
The word dates from the Old English period and in many of the earliest references it is linked with iron. Chaucer wrote of arrows that were made of gold: sharpe for to kerven weel But iren was ther noon ne steel'. It is difficult to define the word in the early period, for steel was being made in different places using different methods. A Hallamshire account book records the arrival in 1574 of vj Barrells of Steele … Layd in the stawre howse at Sheffield Castle: this cargo has been imported from the Continent via Bawtry. Even in the mid-1600s, Britain still lagged behind several other European countries in its manufacture, and relied heavily on imports. That began to change once the cementation method had been introduced, and Huntsman’s invention of crucible or cast steel finally helped Sheffield to become the steel capital of Europe. The product there was more uniform in composition and freer from impurities than any steel previously produced.