Symbols are a relatively new primitive introduced in ES6. A symbol primitive represents a unique value that never collides with any other value, including those of other symbol primitives. Two string primitives made up of identical characters evaluate as strictly equal:

String() === String()
> true

String( "My string." ) === String( "My string." );
> true

However, no two symbols created using the Symbol() function can ever be strictly equal:

Symbol() === Symbol()
> false

This trait lets you use symbols as unique property keys in an object, preventing collisions with keys any other code might add to that object.

const mySymbol = Symbol( "Desc" );

const myObject = {


> Object { Symbol("Desc"): "propSymbol" }

There are three types of symbols:

  • Symbols created with Symbol()
  • Shared symbols that are set and retrieved from a global Symbol registry using Symbol.for()
  • "Well-known symbols" defined as static properties on the Symbol object. These symbols contain internal methods that can't be accidentally overwritten.

Symbol() accepts a description (or "symbol name") as an optional argument. These descriptions are human-readable labels for debugging purposes, and they don't affect the uniqueness of the result. Any call to Symbol returns a completely unique symbol primitive, even if multiple calls have identical descriptions:

Symbol( "My symbol." ) === Symbol( "My symbol." );
> false

As with other primitive data types, symbols inherit methods and properties from their prototype. For example, you can access a description as an inherited property of the created symbol:

let mySymbol = Symbol( "My symbol." );

> "My symbol."

But you can't create a symbol using the new keyword:

let mySymbol = new Symbol();

> Uncaught TypeError: Symbol is not a constructor

Symbols aren't enumerable, meaning that symbolic properties aren't available when using standard methods to iterate over them. The getOwnPropertySymbols() method gives access to an object's symbol properties.

Shared symbols

The Symbol.for() method tries to look up any existing symbols in a runtime-wide global symbol registry with a given string as the key, and returns the matching symbol if one is found. If it doesn't find one, it creates a symbol with the specified key and adds it to the global registry:

let sharedSymbol = Symbol.for( "My key." );

sharedSymbol === Symbol.for( "My key." )
> true

These keys share no functional overlap with the descriptions assigned to author-created Symbol primitives. To access a symbol in the symbol registry, you must first create it using for():

Symbol( "String" ) === Symbol( "String" );
> false

Symbol( "String" ) === Symbol().for( "String" );
> false

Symbol().for( "String" ) === Symbol().for( "String" );
> true

To retrieve the key for any symbol from the symbol registry, use Symbol.keyFor():

let mySymbol = Symbol.for( "Key." );

Symbol.keyFor( mySymbol ) ;
> "Key."

"Well-known" symbols

Well-known symbols are static properties of the Symbol object, each of which is a symbol itself. Well-known symbols provide unique property keys for accessing and modifying JavaScript's built-in methods, while preventing core behavior from being unintentionally overwritten.

> function Symbol()
    asyncIterator: Symbol(Symbol.asyncIterator)
    for: function for()
    hasInstance: Symbol("Symbol.hasInstance")
    isConcatSpreadable: Symbol("Symbol.isConcatSpreadable")
    iterator: Symbol(Symbol.iterator)
    keyFor: function keyFor()
    length: 0
    match: Symbol("Symbol.match")
    matchAll: Symbol("Symbol.matchAll")
    name: "Symbol"
    prototype: Object { … }
    replace: Symbol("Symbol.replace")
    search: Symbol("")
    species: Symbol("Symbol.species")
    split: Symbol("Symbol.split")
    toPrimitive: Symbol("Symbol.toPrimitive")
    toStringTag: Symbol("Symbol.toStringTag")
    unscopables: Symbol("Symbol.unscopables")
    <prototype>: function ()

Because symbols are a feature specific to ES6, these symbolic values are intended to be used as "extension points" for developers modifying JavaScript's behavior without introducing backwards-compatibility issues.

Well-known symbol values are often stylized with a @@ prefix or wrapped in % to differentiate their keys from their mutable prototypes. For example, @@match (or %match%) is a reference to the immutable Symbol.match, not String.prototype.match.

Check your understanding

Can you use new to create a symbol?


Which of the following describe `well-known` symbols?

Static properties of the `Symbol` object
Symbols that you use frequently
Unique property keys for accessing and modifying JavaScript's built-in methods