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The term thread does not have a generally accepted firm/strict definition, but it generally means an instruction execution locus which is less powerful (in terms of its capabilities) than a process; e.g. a thread will generally not have its own address space.

Threads are usually instantiated within a process, and share its memory, I/O channels, etc. Threads do seem to usually have individual, per-thread, stacks, so that a thread can cease executing while down a subroutine call chain, and later resume executing at the exact point where it paused. (Thread-like abstractions without stacks are sometimes called fibers.)

All the threads in a particular process exhibit fate-sharing: if the process is terminated, all the threads within it necessarily are also lost.

Threads are often, but not always, supported by the kernel of an operating system; e.g. the system's scheduler may be prepared to run threads. If not, a library included in the process may manage them.

In multi-processor systems where the kernel supports threads, it may be allowed for multiple threads in a single process to execute concurrently.

Threads may also exist as abstractions inside the kernel (named kernel threads), for use in structuring of work inside the kernel.

See also