This week's book giveaway is in the OCAJP 8 forum. We're giving away four copies of OCA Java SE 8 Programmer I Study Guide and have Edward Finegan & Robert Liguori on-line! See this thread for details.
There are several kinds of reference, the commonest being strong. This means that an object is always “reachable” until the reference is broken, and that object cannot be deleted by the garbage collector.
There are at least two other kinds (weak and phantom). What they mean is that the object can be garbage collected, provided it has no strong references remaining. Have you found the package summary?
It appears that objects which cease to be strongly reachable are put into a queue to be deleted; when they are removed from the queue, their memory can be reclaimed because they are no longer reachable.
I am sure other people will know more about this than me.
Basically Weak References are one way of controlling object's garbage collection.
When an object is only reachable through Weak reference (which means object is neither strongly reachable nor softly reachable), then it becomes eligible for GC. During the run of GC, this object will be marked and garbage collected.
In case of WeakHashMap, keys are referenced through Weak references. When a key is not being used or it is not strongly reachable, then in next run of GC, these keys will be garbage collected and hence mapping entry will be removed from the hashmap.