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Iterator Interface in Java vs. Enumeration Interface in Java: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 25, 2024
Iterator Interface in Java is more advanced, universal cursor allowing traversal, element inspection, element removal from a collection. Enumeration Interface in Java is an older interface for traversing legacy collections, limited to read-only access.

Key Differences

The Iterator interface in Java provides a way to traverse a collection of objects, allowing both read and remove operations. In contrast, the Enumeration interface, an older mechanism in Java, offers only read functionality, primarily used for traversing legacy collections like Vector and Hashtable.
Iterator includes methods such as next(), hasNext(), and remove(), enhancing its utility by allowing element removal in addition to traversal. Enumeration, however, only provides nextElement() and hasMoreElements() methods, restricting its functionality to element traversal without modification capabilities.
Java introduced the Iterator interface to overcome limitations of the Enumeration interface, providing a more standardized and flexible approach to collection traversal. Enumeration remains in use for compatibility with older Java codebases but lacks the features and flexibility of Iterator.
Iterator is considered safer as it throws a ConcurrentModificationException if the collection is modified while iterating, unlike Enumeration, which offers no such safety checks. This makes Iterator preferable for concurrent or multi-threaded environments.
Both Iterator and Enumeration serve similar purposes in element traversal, Iterator is more versatile and robust, aligning with modern Java practices, whereas Enumeration is maintained primarily for backward compatibility.

Comparison Chart


Read and remove elements
Read-only access to elements


Next(), hasNext(), remove()
NextElement(), hasMoreElements()

Modification Safety

Throws ConcurrentModificationException on collection modification during iteration
No modification safety checks


Standard in modern Java collections
Used with legacy collections like Vector, Hashtable


More flexible and universal
Less flexible, limited to basic traversal

Iterator Interface in Java and Enumeration Interface in Java Definitions

Iterator Interface in Java

Facilitates traversal and manipulation of collection elements.
The Iterator allows removal of elements during iteration using its remove() method.

Enumeration Interface in Java

Lacks modification safety during iteration.
Enumeration does not provide concurrent modification checks.

Iterator Interface in Java

Offers enhanced safety features for concurrent modifications.
Iterator throws ConcurrentModificationException if the collection is modified during iteration.

Enumeration Interface in Java

Offers basic read-only traversal of collection elements.
Enumeration is used to iterate over elements of a Vector.

Iterator Interface in Java

Universal cursor for Java collections.
Iterator can be used to traverse any Collection framework class.

Enumeration Interface in Java

Simpler but less flexible than Iterator.
Enumeration only allows basic element access with nextElement().

Iterator Interface in Java

Standard for modern Java collection framework.
Iterator is used to iterate over ArrayList and LinkedList.

Enumeration Interface in Java

Primarily used with legacy Java collections.
Enumeration interfaces with older collections like Hashtable.

Iterator Interface in Java

Supports a richer set of operations compared to Enumeration.
Iterator provides remove() in addition to basic traversal methods.

Enumeration Interface in Java

Maintained for backward compatibility.
Enumeration is still supported for compatibility with older Java code.


How does Iterator handle concurrent modifications?

It throws a ConcurrentModificationException if the collection is modified while iterating.

What does the Enumeration interface do?

Provides read-only access for iterating through legacy collections.

What is the Iterator interface in Java?

A tool for traversing and optionally removing elements from a collection.

Can Iterator modify a collection?

Yes, Iterator can remove elements during iteration.

Is it safe to use Enumeration in a multi-threaded environment?

Without modification safety checks, it's less safe than Iterator.

What collections work with Enumeration in Java?

Legacy collections like Vector and Hashtable.

Is Iterator compatible with all Java collections?

Yes, it's the standard cursor for Java's Collection framework.

Are there performance differences between Iterator and Enumeration?

Performance is generally similar, but Iterator offers more features.

Is Enumeration still used in modern Java?

It's less common, primarily maintained for backward compatibility.

What's the advantage of using Iterator?

It's more versatile, offering both traversal and removal capabilities.

Why was Iterator introduced in Java?

To provide a more flexible and robust alternative to Enumeration.

Can you convert an Enumeration to an Iterator?

Yes, using adapters provided in the Collections framework.

Are there alternatives to Iterator and Enumeration in Java?

Java also offers forEach and stream APIs for collection processing.

Does Enumeration support element addition?

No, it only supports element traversal.

Can both Iterator and Enumeration be used simultaneously on a collection?

Yes, but care must be taken to avoid concurrent modification issues.

Can Enumeration remove elements?

No, it's limited to read-only operations.

How do you obtain an Iterator for a collection?

By calling the iterator() method on the collection.

Can Iterator iterate in reverse order?

No, but ListIterator, a subinterface of Iterator, can.

Is Enumeration faster than Iterator?

Not significantly, as both are designed for efficient traversal.

Does Enumeration support lambda expressions?

No, it predates Java's lambda expressions.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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