Get generic type of java.util.List


I have;

List<String> stringList = new ArrayList<String>();
List<Integer> integerList = new ArrayList<Integer>();

Is there a (easy) way to retrieve the generic type of the list?

12/21/2009 9:09:58 PM

Accepted Answer

If those are actually fields of a certain class, then you can get them with a little help of reflection:

package test;

import java.lang.reflect.Field;
import java.lang.reflect.ParameterizedType;
import java.util.ArrayList;
import java.util.List;

public class Test {

    List<String> stringList = new ArrayList<String>();
    List<Integer> integerList = new ArrayList<Integer>();

    public static void main(String... args) throws Exception {
        Field stringListField = Test.class.getDeclaredField("stringList");
        ParameterizedType stringListType = (ParameterizedType) stringListField.getGenericType();
        Class<?> stringListClass = (Class<?>) stringListType.getActualTypeArguments()[0];
        System.out.println(stringListClass); // class java.lang.String.

        Field integerListField = Test.class.getDeclaredField("integerList");
        ParameterizedType integerListType = (ParameterizedType) integerListField.getGenericType();
        Class<?> integerListClass = (Class<?>) integerListType.getActualTypeArguments()[0];
        System.out.println(integerListClass); // class java.lang.Integer.

You can also do that for parameter types and return type of methods.

But if they're inside the same scope of the class/method where you need to know about them, then there's no point of knowing them, because you already have declared them yourself.

1/31/2017 9:45:23 PM

You can do the same for method parameters as well:

Method method = someClass.getDeclaredMethod("someMethod");
Type[] types = method.getGenericParameterTypes();
//Now assuming that the first parameter to the method is of type List<Integer>
ParameterizedType pType = (ParameterizedType) types[0];
Class<?> clazz = (Class<?>) pType.getActualTypeArguments()[0];
System.out.println(clazz); //prints out java.lang.Integer

Short answer: no.

This is probably a duplicate, can't find an appropriate one right now.

Java uses something called type erasure, which means at runtime both objects are equivalent. The compiler knows the lists contain integers or strings, and as such can maintain a type safe environment. This information is lost (on an object instance basis) at runtime, and the list only contain 'Objects'.

You CAN find out a little about the class, what types it might be parametrized by, but normally this is just anything that extends "Object", i.e. anything. If you define a type as

class <A extends MyClass> AClass {....}

AClass.class will only contain the fact that the parameter A is bounded by MyClass, but more than that, there's no way to tell.


The generic type of a collection should only matter if it actually has objects in it, right? So isn't it easier to just do:

Collection<?> myCollection = getUnknownCollectionFromSomewhere();
Class genericClass = null;
Iterator it = myCollection.iterator();
if (it.hasNext()){
    genericClass =;
if (genericClass != null) { //do whatever we needed to know the type for

There's no such thing as a generic type in runtime, but the objects inside at runtime are guaranteed to be the same type as the declared generic, so it's easy enough just to test the item's class before we process it.

Another thing you can do is simply process the list to get members that are the right type, ignoring others (or processing them differently).

Map<Class<?>, List<Object>> classObjectMap =

// Process the list of the correct class, and/or handle objects of incorrect
// class (throw exceptions, etc). You may need to group subclasses by
// filtering the keys. For instance:

List<Number> numbers = classObjectMap.entrySet().stream()

This will give you a list of all items whose classes were subclasses of Number which you can then process as you need. The rest of the items were filtered out into other lists. Because they're in the map, you can process them as desired, or ignore them.

If you want to ignore items of other classes altogether, it becomes much simpler:

List<Number> numbers =

You can even create a utility method to insure that a list contains ONLY those items matching a specific class:

public <V> List<V> getTypeSafeItemList(Collection<Object> input, Class<V> cls) {

For finding generic type of one field:


If you need to get the generic type of a returned type, I used this approach when I needed to find methods in a class which returned a Collection and then access their generic types:

import java.lang.reflect.Method;
import java.lang.reflect.ParameterizedType;
import java.lang.reflect.Type;
import java.util.Collection;
import java.util.List;

public class Test {

    public List<String> test() {
        return null;

    public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception {

        for (Method method : Test.class.getMethods()) {
            Class returnClass = method.getReturnType();
            if (Collection.class.isAssignableFrom(returnClass)) {
                Type returnType = method.getGenericReturnType();
                if (returnType instanceof ParameterizedType) {
                    ParameterizedType paramType = (ParameterizedType) returnType;
                    Type[] argTypes = paramType.getActualTypeArguments();
                    if (argTypes.length > 0) {
                        System.out.println("Generic type is " + argTypes[0]);



This outputs:

Generic type is class java.lang.String


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