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Why doesn’t java.util.Set have get(int index)?

I’m sure there’s a good reason, but could someone please explain why the java.util.Set interface lacks get(int Index), or any similar get() method?

It seems that sets are great for putting things into, but I can’t find an elegant way of retrieving a single item from it.

If I know I want the first item, I can use set.iterator().next(), but otherwise it seems I have to cast to an Array to retrieve an item at a specific index?

What are the appropriate ways of retrieving data from a set? (other than using an iterator)

I’m sure the fact that it’s excluded from the API means there’s a good reason for not doing this — could someone please enlighten me?

EDIT: Some extremely great answers here, and a few saying “more context”. The specific scenario was a dbUnit test, where I could reasonably assert that the returned set from a query had only 1 item, and I was trying to access that item.

However, the question is more valid without the scenario, as it remains more focussed:

What’s the difference between set and list.

Thanks to all for the fantastic answers below.



Because sets have no ordering. Some implementations do (particularly those implementing the java.util.SortedSet interface), but that is not a general property of sets.

If you’re trying to use sets this way, you should consider using a list instead.