A while ago I heard a word that means something representing something abstract, but not actually being that thing. It was in the context of Java's Class objects - that classes in Java are loaded into the JVM in a special way, but that Class objects exist to represent those; they're _____. I feel like it started with an R? Thanks!

  • This may be better suited to a site dealing with computer terms. (It may not.) Oct 13, 2016 at 0:41
  • representative?
    – Mazura
    Oct 13, 2016 at 0:42
  • It was less common than that
    – Phoenix
    Oct 13, 2016 at 0:42
  • I don't think so
    – Phoenix
    Oct 13, 2016 at 0:44
  • Do you mean 'Instances' of that particular class?
    – anotherDev
    Oct 13, 2016 at 0:45

1 Answer 1


It sounds like you're thinking of reification. From Cambridge Dictionary:

noun [ U ] /ˌriː.ɪ.fɪˈkeɪ.ʃən/ /ˌriː.ɪ.fɪˈkeɪ.ʃən/ formal ​

the act of changing something abstract (= existing as a thought or idea) into something real:
the reification of fantasies

This standard definition is very slightly different from an existing object that stands in for something that remains abstract (that sounds a bit more like a symbol), but I can see it being used that way in a specialized context. I've mostly heard it used in the social sciences, but Wikipedia says that in computer science

Reification is the process by which an abstract idea about a computer program is turned into an explicit data model or other object created in a programming language. A computable/addressable object — a resource — is created in a system as a proxy for a non computable/addressable object.

That second sentence, especially, sounds like what you've described.

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