The hysteresis behavior of a linear stroke magnetorheological damper is characterized for sinusoidal displacement excitation at 2.0 Hz (nominal). First, we characterize the linearized MR damper behavior using equivalent viscous damping and complex stiffness. Four different nonlinear modeling perspectives are then discussed for purposes of system identification procedures, including: (1) nonlinear Bingham plastic model, (2) nonlinear biviscous model, (3) nonlinear hysteretic biviscous model, and (4) nonlinear viscoelastic-plastic model. The first three nonlinear models are piecewise continuous in velocity. The fourth model is piecewise smooth in velocity. By adding progressively more model parameters with which to better represent preyield damper behavior, the force vs. velocity hysteresis model is substantially improved. Of the three nonlinear piecewise continuous models, the nonlinear hysteretic biviscous model provides the best representation of force vs. velocity hysteresis. The nonlinear viscoelastic plastic model is superior for purposes of simulation to the hysteretic biviscous model because it is piecewise smooth in velocity, with a smooth transition from preyield to postyield behaviors. The nonlinear models represent the force vs. displacement hysteresis behavior nearly equally well, although the nonlinear viscoelastic-plastic is quantifiably superior. Thus, any of the nonlinear damper models could be used equally successfully if only a prediction of energy dissipation or damping were of interest.