A Stack is a linear data structure that adds and removes items from the top in a last-in, first-out (LIFO) order. The Stack class comes from the java.util package and extends the legacy Vector class.

An opposite data structure is the Queue interface, which follows the first-in, first-out (FIFO) order. The Stack and Queue concepts can be observed in everyday life (e.g., waiting in a line of people to purchase something or washing a stack of dishes from top to bottom).

Since Java 1.6, there is a more recent implementation of LIFO stack operations, the Deque interface. As stated in the JDK documentation, Deque interface should be used in preference to the legacy Stack class. Whenever a Deque is used as a Stack, elements are pushed and popped from the beginning of the Deque. The table below shows the equivalent methods between Stack and Deque:

Stack method Equivalent Deque method
.push(item) .addFirst(item)
.pop() .removeFirst()
.peek() .getFirst()


import java.util.Stack;

Stack<DataType> s = new Stack<>();

Where DataType is the data type to be stored in the stack.

Note: Unlike Queue, Stack is a concrete class and not an interface.


The Stack class provides the following methods:

  • .push(item): adds an item to the top of the Stack.
  • .pop(): removes and returns the object at the top of the Stack, throwing an exception when the Stack is empty.
  • .peek(): returns the (top) of the Stack without removing it, and throws an exception when the Stack is empty.
  • .empty(): returns true if the Stack contains no items or false, otherwise.
  • .search(item): returns the distance the item is from the top of the Stack, starting from 1, or -1 is if item is not in the Stack.


The following example demonstrates the Stack class:

import java.util.Stack;
import java.util.Arrays;
public class Main {
public static void main(String[] args) {
Stack<String> books = new Stack<>();
books.push("Effective Java");
books.push("Head First Java");
books.push("Thinking in Java");
System.out.println("Effective Java"));
System.out.println("Java for dummies"));

This will output the following:

Thinking in Java
Thinking in Java
[Effective Java, Head First Java]


Interested in helping build Docs? Read the Contribution Guide or share your thoughts in this feedback form.

Learn Java on Codecademy