NoClassDefFoundError in Java

The NoClassDefFoundError is a runtime error in Java that occurs if the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) or a ClassLoader instance attempts to load the definition of a class that could not be found. The class definition exists at compile time but is not available at runtime.

Common Causes

Classpath Issues: If a class was present during the compile time but isn't available during runtime, typically due to changes in the classpath. 

Dynamic Class Loading: If a program uses reflection or other mechanisms to dynamically load a class. 

Transitive Dependencies: Dependencies of libraries that are not included directly in your project.

Mismatched Build Environment: Difference in classpaths between build-time and runtime environments. 

Static Initializers: If a class fails its static initialization, a NoClassDefFoundError can occur on subsequent attempts to load the class.

NoClassDefFoundError ClassExample

Here’s an example of a NoClassDefFoundError thrown when a class is attempted to be loaded that is available at compile-time but not at runtime:

class Animal {
    private String species;

    public String getSpecies() {
        return species;

    public void setSpecies(String species) {
        this.species = species;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String args[]) {
        Animal animal = new Animal();
        System.out.println("Species = " + animal.getSpecies());
In the above example, an instance of the Animal class is created in the Main.main() method and one of its methods is called. When the Main class is compiled and executed using the command line, it works fine and produces the correct output as expected:
Species = Lion
Now, if the Animal.class file is renamed and the Main class is executed again without recompiling, the NoClassDefFoundError is thrown:
Exception in thread "main" java.lang.NoClassDefFoundError: Animal
    at NoClassDefFoundErrorExample.main(
Caused by: java.lang.ClassNotFoundException: Animal
    at java.base/jdk.internal.loader.BuiltinClassLoader.loadClass(
    at java.base/jdk.internal.loader.ClassLoaders$AppClassLoader.loadClass(
    at java.base/java.lang.ClassLoader.loadClass(
    ... 1 more


Check Your Classpath: Ensure that all required classes and libraries are included in your runtime classpath. 

Keep Build & Runtime Environments Consistent: This can be achieved by using build tools like Maven or Gradle which manage dependencies for you. 

Handle Initialization Errors: Catch and address exceptions in static initializers. 

Use Dependency Management Tools: Tools like Maven and Gradle can help you ensure that all transitive dependencies are correctly included.