The noun steel originates from the Proto-Germanic adjective stakhlijan (made of steel), which is related to stakhla (standing firm).
The carbon content of steel is between 0.002% and 2.1% by weight for plain iron®Ccarbon alloys. These values vary depending on alloying elements such as manganese, chromium, nickel, iron, tungsten, carbon and so on. Basically, steel is an iron-carbon alloy that does not undergo eutectic reaction. In contrast, cast iron does undergo eutectic reaction. Too little carbon content leaves (pure) iron quite soft, ductile, and weak. Carbon contents higher than those of steel make an alloy, commonly called pig iron, that is brittle (not malleable). While iron alloyed with carbon is called carbon steel, alloy steel is steel to which other alloying elements have been intentionally added to modify the characteristics of steel. Common alloying elements include: manganese, nickel, chromium, molybdenum, boron, titanium, vanadium, tungsten, cobalt, and niobium. Additional elements are also important in steel: phosphorus, sulfur, silicon, and traces of oxygen, nitrogen, and copper, that are most frequently considered undesirable.
Alloys with a higher than 2.1% carbon content, depending on other element content and possibly on processing, are known as cast iron. Cast iron is not malleable even when hot, but it can be formed by casting as it has a lower melting point than steel and good castability properties. Certain compositions of cast iron, while retaining the economies of melting and casting, can be heat treated after casting to make malleable iron or ductile iron objects. Steel is also distinguishable from wrought iron (now largely obsolete), which may contain a small amount of carbon but large amounts of slag.