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The "work function" of a metal is the least amount of energy it takes in order for an electron to be bounced from that specific metal. So think of it as the threshold frequency, except that it is referring to energy. So a photon must be equal or greater than the work function in order to make an electron bounce off.
If you recall the photoelectric effect experiment with shining light on different metals to try to remove electrons from it, those electrons require energy to eject. This minimum energy needed to remove electrons from the surface of that metal is the threshold energy, represented by the work function. Different types of metals will have different threshold energies to eject electrons from its surface.
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