Arrow function expressions

An arrow function expression is a compact alternative to a traditional function expression, but is limited and can't be used in all situations.

Differences & Limitations:

Comparing traditional functions to arrow functions

Let's decompose a "traditional function" down to the simplest "arrow function" step-by-step:
NOTE: Each step along the way is a valid "arrow function"

// Traditional Function
function (a){
  return a + 100;
}

// Arrow Function Break Down

// 1. Remove the word "function" and place arrow between the argument and opening body bracket
(a) => {
  return a + 100;
}

// 2. Remove the body brackets and word "return" -- the return is implied.
(a) => a + 100;

// 3. Remove the argument parentheses
a => a + 100;

As shown above, the { brackets } and ( parentheses ) and "return" are optional, but may be required.

For example, if you have multiple arguments or no arguments, you'll need to re-introduce parentheses around the arguments:

// Traditional Function
function (a, b){
  return a + b + 100;
}

// Arrow Function
(a, b) => a + b + 100;

// Traditional Function (no arguments)
let a = 4;
let b = 2;
function (){
  return a + b + 100;
}

// Arrow Function (no arguments)
let a = 4;
let b = 2;
() => a + b + 100;

Likewise, if the body requires additional lines of processing, you'll need to re-introduce brackets PLUS the "return" (arrow functions do not magically guess what or when you want to "return"):

// Traditional Function
function (a, b){
  let chuck = 42;
  return a + b + chuck;
}

// Arrow Function
(a, b) => {
  let chuck = 42;
  return a + b + chuck;
}

And finally, for named functions we treat arrow expressions like variables

// Traditional Function
function bob (a){
  return a + 100;
}

// Arrow Function
let bob = a => a + 100;

Syntax

Basic syntax

One param. With simple expression return is not needed:

param => expression

Multiple params require parentheses. With simple expression return is not needed:

(param1, paramN) => expression

Multiline statements require body brackets and return:

param => {
  let a = 1;
  return a + param;
}

Multiple params require parentheses. Multiline statements require body brackets and return:

(param1, paramN) => {
   let a = 1;
   return a + param1 + paramN;
}

Advanced syntax

To return an object literal expression requires parentheses around expression:

params => ({foo: "a"}) // returning the object {foo: "a"}

Rest parameters are supported:

(a, b, ...r) => expression

Default parameters are supported:

(a=400, b=20, c) => expression

Destructuring within params supported:

([a, b] = [10, 20]) => a + b;  // result is 30
({ a, b } = { a: 10, b: 20 }) => a + b; // result is 30

Description

Arrow functions used as methods

As stated previously, arrow function expressions are best suited for non-method functions. Let's see what happens when we try to use them as methods:

'use strict';

var obj = { // does not create a new scope
  i: 10,
  b: () => console.log(this.i, this),
  c: function() {
    console.log(this.i, this);
  }
}

obj.b(); // prints undefined, Window {...} (or the global object)
obj.c(); // prints 10, Object {...}

Arrow functions do not have their own this. Another example involving Object.defineProperty():

'use strict';

var obj = {
  a: 10
};

Object.defineProperty(obj, 'b', {
  get: () => {
    console.log(this.a, typeof this.a, this); // undefined 'undefined' Window {...} (or the global object)
    return this.a + 10; // represents global object 'Window', therefore 'this.a' returns 'undefined'
  }
});

call, apply and bind

The call, apply and bind methods are NOT suitable for Arrow functions -- as they were designed to allow methods to execute within different scopes -- because Arrow functions establish "this" based on the scope the Arrow function is defined within.

For example call, apply and bind work as expected with Traditional functions, because we establish the scope for each of the methods:

// ----------------------
// Traditional Example
// ----------------------
// A simplistic object with its very own "this".
var obj = {
    num: 100
}

// Setting "num" on window to show how it is NOT used.
window.num = 2020; // yikes!

// A simple traditional function to operate on "this"
var add = function (a, b, c) {
  return this.num + a + b + c;
}

// call
var result = add.call(obj, 1, 2, 3) // establishing the scope as "obj"
console.log(result) // result 106

// apply
const arr = [1, 2, 3]
var result = add.apply(obj, arr) // establishing the scope as "obj"
console.log(result) // result 106

// bind
var result = add.bind(obj) // establishing the scope as "obj"
console.log(result(1, 2, 3)) // result 106

With Arrow functions, since our add function is essentially created on the window (global) scope, it will assume this is the window.

// ----------------------
// Arrow Example
// ----------------------

// A simplistic object with its very own "this".
var obj = {
    num: 100
}

// Setting "num" on window to show how it gets picked up.
window.num = 2020; // yikes!

// Arrow Function
var add = (a, b, c) => this.num + a + b + c;

// call
console.log(add.call(obj, 1, 2, 3)) // result 2026

// apply
const arr = [1, 2, 3]
console.log(add.apply(obj, arr)) // result 2026

// bind
const bound = add.bind(obj)
console.log(bound(1, 2, 3)) // result 2026

Perhaps the greatest benefit of using Arrow functions is with DOM-level methods (setTimeout, setInterval, addEventListener) that usually required some kind of closure, call, apply or bind to ensure the function executed in the proper scope.

Traditional Example:

var obj = {
    count : 10,
    doSomethingLater : function (){
        setTimeout(function(){ // the function executes on the window scope
            this.count++;
            console.log(this.count);
        }, 300);
    }
}

obj.doSomethingLater(); // console prints "NaN", because the property "count" is not in the window scope.

Arrow Example:

var obj = {
    count : 10,
    doSomethingLater : function(){ // of course, arrow functions are not suited for methods
        setTimeout( () => { // since the arrow function was created within the "obj", it assumes the object's "this"
            this.count++;
            console.log(this.count);
        }, 300);
    }
}

obj.doSomethingLater();

No binding of arguments

Arrow functions do not have their own arguments object. Thus, in this example, arguments is a reference to the arguments of the enclosing scope:

var arguments = [1, 2, 3];
var arr = () => arguments[0];

arr(); // 1

function foo(n) {
  var f = () => arguments[0] + n; // foo's implicit arguments binding. arguments[0] is n
  return f();
}

foo(3); // 3 + 3 = 6

In most cases, using rest parameters is a good alternative to using an arguments object.

function foo(n) {
  var f = (...args) => args[0] + n;
  return f(10);
}

foo(1); // 11

Use of the new operator

Arrow functions cannot be used as constructors and will throw an error when used with new.

var Foo = () => {};
var foo = new Foo(); // TypeError: Foo is not a constructor

Use of prototype property

Arrow functions do not have a prototype property.

var Foo = () => {};
console.log(Foo.prototype); // undefined

Use of the yield keyword

The yield keyword may not be used in an arrow function's body (except when permitted within functions further nested within it). As a consequence, arrow functions cannot be used as generators.

Function body

Arrow functions can have either a "concise body" or the usual "block body".

In a concise body, only an expression is specified, which becomes the implicit return value. In a block body, you must use an explicit return statement.

var func = x => x * x;
// concise body syntax, implied "return"

var func = (x, y) => { return x + y; };
// with block body, explicit "return" needed

Returning object literals

Keep in mind that returning object literals using the concise body syntax params => {object:literal} will not work as expected.

var func = () => { foo: 1 };
// Calling func() returns undefined!

var func = () => { foo: function() {} };
// SyntaxError: function statement requires a name

This is because the code inside braces ({}) is parsed as a sequence of statements (i.e. foo is treated like a label, not a key in an object literal).

You must wrap the object literal in parentheses:

var func = () => ({ foo: 1 });

Line breaks

An arrow function cannot contain a line break between its parameters and its arrow.

var func = (a, b, c)
  => 1;
// SyntaxError: expected expression, got '=>'

However, this can be amended by putting the line break after the arrow or using parentheses/braces as seen below to ensure that the code stays pretty and fluffy. You can also put line breaks between arguments.

var func = (a, b, c) =>
  1;

var func = (a, b, c) => (
  1
);

var func = (a, b, c) => {
  return 1
};

var func = (
  a,
  b,
  c
) => 1;

// no SyntaxError thrown

Parsing order

Although the arrow in an arrow function is not an operator, arrow functions have special parsing rules that interact differently with operator precedence compared to regular functions.

let callback;

callback = callback || function() {}; // ok

callback = callback || () => {};
// SyntaxError: invalid arrow-function arguments

callback = callback || (() => {});    // ok

Examples

Basic usage

// An empty arrow function returns undefined
let empty = () => {};

(() => 'foobar')();
// Returns "foobar"
// (this is an Immediately Invoked Function Expression)

var simple = a => a > 15 ? 15 : a;
simple(16); // 15
simple(10); // 10

let max = (a, b) => a > b ? a : b;

// Easy array filtering, mapping, ...

var arr = [5, 6, 13, 0, 1, 18, 23];

var sum = arr.reduce((a, b) => a + b);
// 66

var even = arr.filter(v => v % 2 == 0);
// [6, 0, 18]

var double = arr.map(v => v * 2);
// [10, 12, 26, 0, 2, 36, 46]

// More concise promise chains
promise.then(a => {
  // ...
}).then(b => {
  // ...
});

// Parameterless arrow functions that are visually easier to parse
setTimeout( () => {
  console.log('I happen sooner');
  setTimeout( () => {
    // deeper code
    console.log('I happen later');
  }, 1);
}, 1);

Specifications

Specification
ECMAScript (ECMA-262)
The definition of 'Arrow Function Definitions' in that specification.

Browser compatibility

BCD tables only load in the browser

See also