pressure, in mechanics, ratio of the force acting on a surface to the area of the surface; it is thus distinct from the total force acting on a surface. A force can be applied to and sustained by a single point on a solid. However, a force can only be sustained by the surface of an enclosed fluid, i.e., a liquid or a gas. Thus it is more convenient to describe the forces acting on and within fluids in terms of pressure. Units of pressure are frequently force units divided by area units, e.g., pounds per square inch, dynes per square centimeter, or newtons (N) per square meter.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Physics