Why must wait() always be in synchronized block

We all know that in order to invoke Object.wait(), this call must be placed in synchronized block, otherwise an IllegalMonitorStateException is thrown. But what’s the reason for making this restriction? I know that wait() releases the monitor, but why do we need to explicitly acquire the monitor by making particular block synchronized and then release the monitor by calling wait()?

What is the potential damage if it was possible to invoke wait() outside a synchronized block, retaining it’s semantics – suspending the caller thread?


A wait() only makes sense when there is also a notify(), so it’s always about communication between threads, and that needs synchronization to work correctly. One could argue that this should be implicit, but that would not really help, for the following reason:

Semantically, you never just wait(). You need some condition to be satsified, and if it is not, you wait until it is. So what you really do is


But the condition is being set by a separate thread, so in order to have this work correctly you need synchronization.

A couple more things wrong with it, where just because your thread quit waiting doesn’t mean the condition you are looking for is true:

  • You can get spurious wakeups (meaning that a thread can wake up from waiting without ever having received a notification), or

  • The condition can get set, but a third thread makes the condition false again by the time the waiting thread wakes up (and reacquires the monitor).

To deal with these cases what you really need is always some variation of this:


Better yet, don’t mess with the synchronization primitives at all and work with the abstractions offered in the java.util.concurrent packages.

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