# Virtual work

In mechanics, **virtual work** arises in the application of the *principle of least action* to the study of forces and movement of a mechanical system. The work of a force acting on a particle as it moves along a displacement is different for different displacements. Among all the possible displacements that a particle may follow, called virtual displacements, one will minimize the action. This displacement is therefore the displacement followed by the particle according to the principle of least action. *The work of a force on a particle along a virtual displacement is known as the virtual work*.

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Historically, virtual work and the associated calculus of variations were formulated to analyze systems of rigid bodies,[1] but they have also been developed for the study of the mechanics of deformable bodies.[2]