Symbol: Unique Identifiers in JavaScript

In JavaScript, Symbol is a primitive data type introduced in ES6 (ECMAScript 2015) that generates a unique and immutable value. Symbols are often used to create unique identifiers for object properties, ensuring that there are no naming conflicts, especially when working with libraries or large codebases.

Creating and Using Symbols

To create a symbol, you use the Symbol() function. Each time you call Symbol(), it generates a new, unique symbol, even if you pass the same description.

I. Creating a Symbol

let symbol1 = Symbol();
let symbol2 = Symbol('description');
let symbol3 = Symbol('description');

console.log(symbol2 === symbol3); // false

Despite symbol2 and symbol3 having the same description, they are different and unique.

II. Using Symbols

Symbols are often used as keys for object properties. The uniqueness of symbols ensures that property keys do not clash with other keys in the object, including keys added by extensions or libraries.

let id = Symbol('id');
let user = {
  name: 'John Doe',
  [id]: 123 // Symbol as a property key

console.log(user[id]); // 123

Symbols in Object Properties and Their Uses

Symbols bring several benefits when used as object properties:

I. Privacy

Symbols are not enumerable in for…in loops and do not show up in Object.keys() or JSON.stringify(), providing a form of property privacy.

for (let key in user) console.log(key); // name
console.log(Object.keys(user)); // ['name']
console.log(JSON.stringify(user)); // {"name":"John Doe"}

This makes symbols ideal for adding metadata or non-enumerable properties to objects that should not be directly accessed or altered.

II. Avoiding Property Name Collisions

Using symbols as property keys helps avoid naming collisions, especially in larger applications or when integrating with third-party libraries.

III. Well-Known Symbols

JavaScript defines several well-known symbols with predefined behaviors. For example, Symbol.iterator defines the default iterator for an object.

let iterable = {
  [Symbol.iterator]() {
    let step = 0;
    return {
      next() {
        if (step === 1) return { value: 'Hello', done: false };
        else if (step === 2) return { value: 'World', done: false };
        return { value: undefined, done: true };

for (let value of iterable) {
  console.log(value); // "Hello" then "World"

This allows customization of iteration logic for custom objects.

IV. Symbol.for and Symbol.keyFor

Symbol.for(key) searches for existing symbols with the given key in the global symbol registry and returns it if found. Otherwise, it creates a new global symbol.

let globalSymbol = Symbol.for('globalSymbol');
let sameGlobalSymbol = Symbol.for('globalSymbol');

console.log(globalSymbol === sameGlobalSymbol); // true

Symbol.keyFor(symbol) retrieves a shared symbol’s key from the global symbol registry.

console.log(Symbol.keyFor(globalSymbol)); // 'globalSymbol'


Symbols offer a powerful way to create unique and hidden properties on objects, ensuring that your codebase remains conflict-free and maintainable. By leveraging symbols for private properties or integrating well-known symbols, you can enhance functionality and ensure compatibility across different parts of your applications.