Why can’t static methods be abstract in Java?

The abstract annotation to a method indicates that the method MUST be overriden in a subclass.

In Java, a static member (method or field) cannot be overridden by subclasses (this is not necessarily true in other object oriented languages, see SmallTalk.) A static member may be hidden, but that is fundamentally different than overridden.

Since static members cannot be overriden in a subclass, the abstract annotation cannot be applied to them.

As an aside – other languages do support static inheritance, just like instance inheritance. From a syntax perspective, those languages usually require the class name to be included in the statement. For example, in Java, assuming you are writing code in ClassA, these are equivalent statements (if methodA() is a static method, and there is no instance method with the same signature):




In SmallTalk, the class name is not optional, so the syntax is (note that SmallTalk does not use the . to separate the “subject” and the “verb”, but instead uses it as the statemend terminator):

ClassA methodA.

Because the class name is always required, the correct “version” of the method can always be determined by traversing the class hierarchy. For what it’s worth, I do occasionally miss static inheritance, and was bitten by the lack of static inheritance in Java when I first started with it. Additionally, SmallTalk is duck-typed (and thus doesn’t support program-by-contract.) Thus, it has no abstract modifier for class members.