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A lock is a mechanical or electronic fastening device that is released by a physical object (such as a key, keycard, fingerprint, RFID card, security token or coin), by supplying secret information (such as a number or letter permutation or password), by a combination thereof, or it may only be able to be opened from one side, such as a door chain.
A key is a device that is used to operate a lock (to lock or unlock it). A typical key is a small piece of metal consisting of two parts: the bit or blade, which slides into the keyway of the lock and distinguishes between different keys, and the bow, which is left protruding so that torque can be applied by the user. In its simplest implementation, a key operates one lock or set of locks that are keyed alike, a lock/key system where each similarly keyed lock requires the same, unique key.
The key serves as a security token for access to the locked area; locks are meant to only allow persons having the correct key to open it and gain access. In more complex mechanical lock/key systems, two different keys, one of which is known as the master key, serve to open the lock. Common metals include brass, plated brass, nickel silver, and steel.