# Force vs. Load — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on June 10, 2024
Force is an influence that can change the motion of an object; load is the weight carried or supported by something.

## Key Differences

Force is an interaction that changes the motion of an object, while load is the weight or pressure borne by a structure. A force can be a push or pull, and it has both magnitude and direction, making it a vector quantity. Load, on the other hand, is often the result of a force, such as gravity, and is typically measured as a weight.
When an engineer designs a building, they calculate loads, which are the forces a structure must support. These loads include the weight of the structure itself, known as dead load, and the weight of movable objects, or live load. Force encompasses a broader range of actions, including things like friction, air resistance, and tension.
Force can be temporary or constant; for example, a force is applied when kicking a ball, which then stops when the foot is no longer in contact. Load often refers to a continuous pressure or force exerted on an object, like the weight of furniture on a floor. Both concepts are essential in fields like physics and engineering, but they are used to describe different phenomena.
In physics, forces are responsible for the acceleration of masses, following Newton's second law of motion. Loads, in construction and engineering, need to be carefully calculated to ensure safety and structural integrity. While all loads are forces, not all forces are considered loads.
One experiences force through various actions like magnetism or electricity, while load is specifically the force due to weight or an external pressure on a structure or vehicle. This distinction is crucial for understanding the practical applications of each term in different contexts, such as physical movements versus structural engineering.

## Comparison Chart

### Definition

An interaction that changes the state of motion of an object
The weight or pressure that is carried by a structure

### Units

Newtons (N)
Newtons (N) or pounds (lbs), depending on context

### Types

Applied, gravitational, frictional, etc.

### Nature

Can be a push or a pull, vector quantity
Usually refers to a downward force due to gravity

### Field of Study

Engineering, particularly structural engineering

## Compare with Definitions

#### Force

Influence that causes an object to change velocity.
Gravity is the force that keeps us grounded.

The demand for services or performance made on a machine or system.

#### Force

Strength or energy as an attribute of physical action.
He used all his force to open the stuck window.

A burden or heavy pressure.
He felt the load of responsibility on his shoulders.

#### Force

Coercion or compulsion, especially with the use or threat of violence.
They were forced to evacuate.

The amount of material transported or processed at one time.
The truck was filled with a full load of gravel.

#### Force

A unit in physics, measured in Newtons.
The equation F=ma calculates the force exerted.

A heavy or bulky thing that is being carried or is about to be carried
In addition to their own food, they must carry a load of up to eighty pounds

#### Force

In physics, a force is any influence that, when unopposed, will change the motion of an object. A force can cause an object with mass to change its velocity (which includes to begin moving from a state of rest), i.e., to accelerate.

A weight or source of pressure borne by someone or something
The increased load on the heart caused by a raised arterial pressure
The arch has hollow spandrels to lighten the load on the foundations

#### Force

Strength or energy as an attribute of physical action or movement
He was thrown backwards by the force of the explosion

A lot of
She was talking a load of rubbish

#### Force

Coercion or compulsion, especially with the use or threat of violence
They ruled by law and not by force

The amount of power supplied by a source; the resistance of moving parts to be overcome by a motor
If the wire in the fuse is too thin to accept the load it will melt

#### Force

Mental or moral strength or power
The force of popular opinion

Fill (a vehicle, ship, container, etc.) with a large amount of something
They go to Calais to load up their vans with cheap beer

#### Force

An organized body of military personnel or police
A British peacekeeping force

Make (someone or something) carry or hold a large or excessive quantity of heavy things
Elaine was loaded down with bags full of shopping

#### Force

A waterfall.

Charge (a firearm) with ammunition
He began to load the gun

#### Force

Make a way through or into by physical strength; break open by force
The back door of the bank was forced

Add an extra charge to (an insurance premium) to take account of a factor that increases the risk.

#### Force

Make (someone) do something against their will
The universities were forced to cut staff
She was forced into early retirement

A weight or mass that is supported

#### Force

The capacity to do work or cause physical change; energy, strength, or active power
The force of an explosion.

The overall force to which a structure is subjected in supporting a weight or mass or in resisting externally applied forces.

#### Force

Power made operative against resistance; exertion
Use force in driving a nail.

Something that is carried, as by a vehicle, person, or animal

#### Force

The use of physical power or violence to compel or restrain
A confession obtained by force.

The quantity that is or can be carried at one time.

#### Force

Intellectual power or vigor, especially as conveyed in writing or speech.

The share of work allocated to or required of a person, machine, group, or organization.

#### Force

Moral strength.

The amount of material that can be inserted into a device or machine at one time
The washing machine has a full load.

#### Force

A capacity for affecting the mind or behavior; efficacy
The force of logical argumentation.

A single charge of ammunition for a firearm.

#### Force

One that possesses such capacity
The forces of evil.

Vulgar Slang An ejaculation of semen.

#### Force

A body of persons or other resources organized or available for a certain purpose
A large labor force.

A mental weight or burden
Good news took a load off my mind.

#### Force

A person or group capable of influential action
A retired senator who is still a force in national politics.

A responsibility regarded as oppressive.

#### Force

Military strength.

The external mechanical resistance against which a machine acts.

#### Force

A unit of a nation's military personnel, especially one deployed into combat
Our armed forces have at last engaged the enemy.

The power output of a generator or power plant.

#### Force

A vector quantity indicating the strength and direction of the capacity to accelerate a body. Newton's second law of motion states that a free body accelerates in the direction of the net force and that its acceleration is directly proportional to the force and inversely proportional to its mass.

A device or the resistance of a device to which power is delivered.

#### Force

See fundamental force.

A fee that a mutual fund charges to an investor when the investor purchases or redeems shares in the fund.

#### Force

(Baseball) A force play.

Often loads(Informal) A great number or amount

#### Force

To compel through pressure or necessity
I forced myself to practice daily. He was forced to take a second job.

Derogatory Slang A heavy or overweight person.

#### Force

To gain by the use of force or coercion
Force a confession.

#### Force

To move or effect against resistance or inertia
Forced my foot into the shoe.

To put (something) into or onto a structure or conveyance

#### Force

To inflict or impose relentlessly
He forced his ideas upon the group.

To put something into or onto (a structure or conveyance)
Loaded the tanker with crude oil.

#### Force

To put undue strain on
She forced her voice despite being hoarse.

To provide or fill nearly to overflowing; heap

#### Force

To increase or accelerate (a pace, for example) to the maximum.

To give worries or difficulties to; weigh down; burden

#### Force

To produce with effort and against one's will
Force a laugh in spite of pain.

To insert (a necessary material) into a device

#### Force

To use (language) with obvious lack of ease and naturalness.

To insert a necessary material into

#### Force

To move, open, or clear by force
Forced our way through the crowd.

(Games) To make (dice) heavier on one side by adding weight.

#### Force

To break down or open by force
Force a lock.

To charge with additional meanings, implications, or emotional import
Loaded the question to trick the witness.

#### Force

To rape.

To raise the power demand in (an electrical circuit), as by adding resistance.

#### Force

To induce change in (a complex system) by changing one of its parameters
Greenhouse gases that force the earth's climate.

To increase (an insurance premium or mutual fund share price) by adding expenses or sale costs.

#### Force

(Botany) To cause to grow or mature by artificially accelerating normal processes.

(Baseball) To have or put runners on (first, second, and third base).

#### Force

To put (a runner) out on a force play.

(Computers) To transfer (data) from a storage device into a computer's memory.

#### Force

To allow (a run) to be scored by walking a batter when the bases are loaded.

#### Force

(Games) To cause an opponent to play (a particular card).

To charge a firearm with ammunition.

#### Force

Strength or energy of body or mind; active power; vigour; might; capacity of exercising an influence or producing an effect.
The force of an appeal, an argument, or a contract

To put or place a load into or onto a structure, device, or conveyance.

#### Force

Power exerted against will or consent; compulsory power; violence; coercion.

(Computers) To be transferred from a storage device into a computer's memory.

#### Force

(countable) Anything that is able to make a substantial change in a person or thing.

A burden; a weight to be carried.
I struggled up the hill with the heavy load in my rucksack.

#### Force

A physical quantity that denotes ability to push, pull, twist or accelerate a body and which has a direction and is measured in a unit dimensioned in mass × distance/time² (ML/T²): SI: newton (N); CGS: dyne (dyn)

(figuratively) A worry or concern to be endured, especially in the phrase a load off one's mind.

#### Force

Something or anything that has the power to produce a physical effect upon something else, such as causing it to move or change shape.

A certain number of articles or quantity of material that can be transported or processed at one time.
The truck overturned while carrying a full load of oil.
She put another load of clothes in the washing machine.

#### Force

(countable) A group that aims to attack, control, or constrain.
Reinforcemented increased the American force in the area to 9,000
Police force

A quantity of washing put into a washing machine for a wash cycle.
I put a load on before we left.

#### Force

(uncountable) The ability to attack, control, or constrain.
Show of force

(in combination) Used to form nouns that indicate a large quantity, often corresponding to the capacity of a vehicle

#### Force

(countable) A magic trick in which the outcome is known to the magician beforehand, especially one involving the apparent free choice of a card by another person.

A large number or amount.
I got loads of presents for my birthday!

#### Force

(legal) Legal validity.
The law will come into force in January.

The volume of work required to be performed.
Will our web servers be able to cope with that load?

#### Force

(legal) Either unlawful violence, as in a "forced entry", or lawful compulsion.

(engineering) The force exerted on a structural component such as a beam, girder, cable etc.
Each of the cross-members must withstand a tensile load of 1,000 newtons.

#### Force

Ability of an utterance or its element (word, form, prosody, ...) to effect a given meaning.

(electrical engineering) The electrical current or power delivered by a device.
I'm worried that the load on that transformer will be too high.

#### Force

|often|capitalized}}Star Wars A metaphysical and ubiquitous power from the fictional Star Wars universe created by George Lucas. See usage note.

(engineering) A resistive force encountered by a prime mover when performing work.

#### Force

Synonym of police force

(electrical engineering) Any component that draws current or power from an electrical circuit.
Connect a second 24-ohm load across the power supply's output terminals.

#### Force

A unit of measure for various quantities.

#### Force

(transitive) To violate (a woman); to rape.

#### Force

To exert oneself, to do one's utmost.

A very small explosive inserted as a gag into a cigarette or cigar.

#### Force

(transitive) To compel (someone or something) to do something.

The charge of powder for a firearm.

#### Force

(transitive) To constrain by force; to overcome the limitations or resistance of.

(obsolete) Weight or violence of blows.

#### Force

(transitive) To drive (something) by force, to propel (generally + prepositional phrase or adverb).

The contents (e.g. semen) of an ejaculation.

#### Force

(transitive) To cause to occur (despite inertia, resistance etc.); to produce through force.
The comedian's jokes weren't funny, but I forced a laugh now and then.

(euphemism) Nonsense; rubbish.

#### Force

(transitive) To forcibly open (a door, lock etc.).
To force a lock.

(computing) The process of loading something, i.e. transferring it into memory or over a network, etc.
All of those uncompressed images are going to slow down the page load.

#### Force

To obtain or win by strength; to take by violence or struggle; specifically, to capture by assault; to storm, as a fortress.

(Philippines) prepaid phone credit

#### Force

To create an out by touching a base in advance of a runner who has no base to return to while in possession of a ball which has already touched the ground.
Jones forced the runner at second by stepping on the bag.

A person that spends all day online. The term was originally used in the late 1980s to describe users on free Q-Link (later America Online) accounts who never signed off the system at great expense to the company.
She never logs off; she is a real LOAD!

#### Force

(whist) To compel (an adversary or partner) to trump a trick by leading a suit that he/she does not hold.

(transitive) To put a load on or in (a means of conveyance or a place of storage).
The dock workers refused to load the ship.

#### Force

(archaic) To put in force; to cause to be executed; to make binding; to enforce.

(transitive) To place in or on a conveyance or a place of storage.
The longshoremen loaded the cargo quickly.
He loaded his stuff into his storage locker.

#### Force

(archaic) To provide with forces; to reinforce; to strengthen by soldiers; to man; to garrison.

(intransitive) To put a load on something.
The truck was supposed to leave at dawn, but in fact we spent all morning loading.

#### Force

(obsolete) To allow the force of; to value; to care for.

The truck is designed to load easily.

#### Force

To stuff; to lard; to farce.

(intransitive) To be placed into storage or conveyance.
The containers load quickly and easily.

#### Force

To stuff; to lard; to farce.
Wit larded with malice, and malice forced with wit.

(transitive) To fill (a firearm or artillery) with munition.
I pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. I had forgotten to load the gun.

#### Force

To constrain to do or to forbear, by the exertion of a power not resistible; to compel by physical, moral, or intellectual means; to coerce; as, masters force slaves to labor.

(transitive) To insert (an item or items) into an apparatus so as to ready it for operation, such as a reel of film into a camera, sheets of paper into a printer etc.
Now that you've loaded the film [into the camera], you're ready to start shooting.
Now that you've loaded the camera [with film], you're ready to start shooting.

#### Force

To compel, as by strength of evidence; as, to force conviction on the mind.

(transitive) To fill (an apparatus) with raw material.
The workers loaded the blast furnace with coke and ore.

#### Force

To do violence to; to overpower, or to compel by violence to one's will; especially, to ravish; to violate; to commit rape upon.
To force their monarch and insult the court.
I should have forced thee soon wish other arms.
To force a spotless virgin's chastity.

(intransitive) To be put into use in an apparatus.
The cartridge was designed to load easily.

#### Force

To obtain, overcome, or win by strength; to take by violence or struggle; specifically, to capture by assault; to storm, as a fortress; as, to force the castle; to force a lock.

To read (data or a program) from a storage medium into computer memory.
Click OK to load the selected data.

#### Force

To impel, drive, wrest, extort, get, etc., by main strength or violence; - with a following adverb, as along, away, from, into, through, out, etc.
It stuck so fast, so deeply buried layThat scarce the victor forced the steel away.
To force the tyrant from his seat by war.
Ethelbert ordered that none should be forced into religion.

To transfer from a storage medium into computer memory.
This program takes an age to load.

#### Force

To put in force; to cause to be executed; to make binding; to enforce.
What can the church force more?

To put runners on first, second and third bases
He walks to load the bases.

#### Force

To exert to the utmost; to urge; hence, to strain; to urge to excessive, unnatural, or untimely action; to produce by unnatural effort; as, to force a conceit or metaphor; to force a laugh; to force fruits.
High on a mounting wave my head I bore,Forcing my strength, and gathering to the shore.

(transitive) To tamper with so as to produce a biased outcome.
The wording of the ballot paper loaded the vote in favour of the Conservative candidate.

#### Force

To compel (an adversary or partner) to trump a trick by leading a suit of which he has none.

(transitive) To ask or adapt a question so that it will be more likely to be answered in a certain way.

#### Force

To provide with forces; to reënforce; to strengthen by soldiers; to man; to garrison.

(transitive) To encumber with something negative, to place as an encumbrance.
The new owners loaded debt on the company.

#### Force

To allow the force of; to value; to care for.
For me, I force not argument a straw.

(transitive) To provide in abundance.
He loaded his system with carbs before the marathon.
He loaded carbs into his system before the marathon.

#### Force

To use violence; to make violent effort; to strive; to endeavor.
Forcing with gifts to win his wanton heart.

(transitive) To weight (a cane, whip, etc.) with lead or similar.

#### Force

To make a difficult matter of anything; to labor; to hesitate; hence, to force of, to make much account of; to regard.
Your oath once broke, you force not to forswear.
I force not of such fooleries.

#### Force

To be of force, importance, or weight; to matter.
It is not sufficient to have attained the name and dignity of a shepherd, not forcing how.

To magnetize.

#### Force

To see the falls for force of the river Kent.

(Philippines) to top up or purchase phone credits

#### Force

Capacity of exercising an influence or producing an effect; strength or energy of body or mind; active power; vigor; might; often, an unusual degree of strength or energy; especially, power to persuade, or convince, or impose obligation; pertinency; validity; special signification; as, the force of an appeal, an argument, a contract, or a term.
He was, in the full force of the words, a good man.

A burden; that which is laid on or put in anything for conveyance; that which is borne or sustained; a weight; as, a heavy load.
He might such a loadTo town with his ass carry.

#### Force

Power exerted against will or consent; compulsory power; violence; coercion; as, by force of arms; to take by force.
Which now they hold by force, and not by right.

The quantity which can be carried or drawn in some specified way; the contents of a cart, barrow, or vessel; that which will constitute a cargo; lading.

#### Force

Strength or power for war; hence, a body of land or naval combatants, with their appurtenances, ready for action; - an armament; troops; warlike array; - often in the plural; hence, a body of men prepared for action in other ways; as, the laboring force of a plantation; the armed forces.
Is Lucius general of the forces?

That which burdens, oppresses, or grieves the mind or spirits; as, a load of care.

#### Force

Strength or power exercised without law, or contrary to law, upon persons or things; violence.

A particular measure for certain articles, being as much as may be carried at one time by the conveyance commonly used for the article measured; as, a load of wood; a load of hay; specifically, five quarters.

#### Force

Any action between two bodies which changes, or tends to change, their relative condition as to rest or motion; or, more generally, which changes, or tends to change, any physical relation between them, whether mechanical, thermal, chemical, electrical, magnetic, or of any other kind; as, the force of gravity; cohesive force; centrifugal force.
Thy tears are of no force to mollifyThis flinty man.
More huge in strength than wise in works he was.
Adam and first matron EveHad ended now their orisons, and foundStrength added from above, new hope to springOut of despair.

The charge of a firearm; as, a load of powder.

#### Force

A unit that is part of some military service;
He sent Caesar a force of six thousand men

Weight or violence of blows.

#### Force

One possessing or exercising power or influence or authority;
The mysterious presence of an evil power
May the force be with you
The forces of evil

The work done by a steam engine or other prime mover when working.

#### Force

(physics) the influence that produces a change in a physical quantity;
Force equals mass times acceleration

The amount of work that a person, group, or machine is assigned to perform; as, the boss distributed the load evenly among his employees.

#### Force

Group of people willing to obey orders;
A public force is necessary to give security to the rights of citizens

The device or devices that consume power from a power supply.

#### Force

A powerful effect or influence;
The force of his eloquence easily persuaded them

The weight or force that a structural support bears or is designed to bear; the object that creates that force.

#### Force

An act of aggression (as one against a person who resists);
He may accomplish by craft in the long run what he cannot do by force and violence in the short one

To lay a load or burden on or in, as on a horse or in a cart; to charge with a load, as a gun; to furnish with a lading or cargo, as a ship; hence, to add weight to, so as to oppress or embarrass; to heap upon.
I strive all in vain to load the cart.
I have loaden me with many spoils.

#### Force

Physical energy or intensity;
He hit with all the force he could muster
It was destroyed by the strength of the gale
A government has not the vitality and forcefulness of a living man

#### Force

A group of people having the power of effective action;
He joined forces with a band of adventurers

To magnetize.

#### Force

(of a law) having legal validity;
The law is still in effect

Weight to be borne or conveyed

#### Force

To cause to do through pressure or necessity, by physical, moral or intellectual means :
She forced him to take a job in the city
He squeezed her for information

A quantity that can be processed or transported at one time;
The system broke down under excessive loads

#### Force

Urge or force (a person) to an action; constrain or motivate

Goods carried by a large vehicle

#### Force

Move with force,
He pushed the table into a corner

An amount of alcohol sufficient to intoxicate;
He got a load on and started a brawl

#### Force

Impose or thrust urgently, importunately, or inexorably;
She forced her diet fads on him

The power output of a generator or power plant

#### Force

Squeeze like a wedge into a tight space;
I squeezed myself into the corner

An onerous or difficult concern;
The burden of responsibility
That's a load off my mind

#### Force

Force into or from an action or state, either physically or metaphorically;
She rammed her mind into focus

A deposit of valuable ore occurring within definite boundaries separating it from surrounding rocks

#### Force

Do forcibly; exert force;
Don't force it!

The front part of a guided missile or rocket or torpedo that carries the nuclear or explosive charge or the chemical or biological agents

#### Force

Cause to move along the ground by pulling;
Draw a wagon
Pull a sled

Electrical device to which electrical power is delivered

#### Force

Take by force;
Storm the fort

Fill or place a load on;

#### Force

A push or pull upon an object.
The force of the wind knocked over the tree.

Provide with munition;

Put (something) on a structure or conveyance;
Load the bags onto the trucks

The weight carried by a structure or vehicle.
The bridge collapsed under the heavy load.

To place a weight or burden on.
She loaded the car with groceries.

An electrical device's power consumption.
The generator couldn't handle the load during the outage.

## Common Curiosities

#### What is a live load?

A live load is a changing or movable force on a structure, like people or furniture.

#### How do you measure load?

Load can be measured in weight units like pounds or newtons.

#### Can load exist without a force?

No, load is a result of gravitational force.

#### Can force be felt?

Yes, force can be felt as a push, pull, or through acceleration.

#### Is wind considered a force or a load?

Wind exerts a force, which can be considered a dynamic load on structures.

#### Can the term 'load' apply to electrical systems?

Yes, it refers to the power demand of an electrical component.

#### How is load different from force?

Load is a specific type of force that refers to the weight or pressure supported by a structure.

#### Are force and load scalar or vector quantities?

Force is a vector quantity; load is typically scalar unless direction is specified.

#### What is force in physics?

Force is a vector that causes an object to accelerate.

#### What are the units of force?

The SI unit of force is the Newton (N).

#### Is friction a force or a load?

Friction is a force that resists motion between two surfaces in contact.

A dead load is a permanent force on a structure, like the weight of the walls.

#### What is meant by force of gravity?

The force of gravity is the attraction exerted by Earth on objects, giving them weight.

Yes, excessive load can cause materials to deform or fail.

#### Can forces be negative?

Forces can have a negative sign indicating direction opposite to the chosen positive axis.

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