Java Streams - Map vs FlatMap

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Map Vs FlatMap

In Java streams, map and flatMap are two distinct functions that can be used to transform elements in a stream, but they are used in slightly different ways.

Map vs FlatMap


The map operation is used to transform each element of the stream according to the provided function.

It applies a one-to-one transformation, meaning that each element in the original stream is transformed into exactly one element in the resulting stream. The result is a new stream of the same size as the original stream.

   List<String> words = Arrays.asList("hello", "world");
   List<Integer> lengths =
   // Result: [5, 5]

In this example, each word in the stream is mapped to its length, resulting in a stream of integer values.


The flatMap operation is used for a one-to-many transformation of elements. It takes a function that returns a stream of values for each input element and then flattens these streams into a single stream of values. It is particularly useful when the mapping function returns a stream, and you want to avoid nested streams.

   List<String> words = Arrays.asList("hello", "world");
   List<String> uniqueLetters =
                                    .map(word -> word.split(""))
   // Result: [h, e, l, o, w, r, d]

In this example, the map function returns an array of letters for each word, and flatMap is used to flatten these arrays into a single stream of letters. The distinct operation then ensures that only unique letters are retained.

In summary, the key difference is in the nature of the transformation.

map is for one-to-one transformations.
flatMap is for one-to-many transformations, flattening the result into a single stream.