A primitive (primitive value, primitive data type) is data that is not an object and has no methods. In JavaScript, there are 6 primitive data types: string, number, boolean, null, undefined, symbol (new in ECMAScript 2015).

Most of the time, a primitive value is represented directly at the lowest level of the language implementation.

All primitives are immutable, i.e., they cannot be altered. It is important not to confuse a primitive itself with a variable assigned a primitive value. The variable may be reassigned a new value, but the existing value can not be changed in the ways that objects, arrays, and functions can be altered.

Example

This example would help you understand the fact that primitive values are immutable.

JavaScript

// Using a string method doesn't mutate the string
var bar = "baz";
console.log(bar);               // baz
bar.toUpperCase()
console.log(bar);               // baz

// Using an array method mutates the array
var foo = [];
console.log(foo);               // []
foo.push("plugh");
console.log(foo);               // ["plugh"]

// Assignment gives the primitive a new (not a mutated) value
bar = bar.toUpperCase();       // BAZ

A primitive can be replaced, but it can't be directly altered.

Primitive wrapper objects in JavaScript

Except for null and undefined, all primitive values have object equivalents that wrap around the primitive values:

  • String for the string primitive.
  • Number for the number primitive.
  • Boolean for the Boolean primitive.
  • Symbol for the Symbol primitive.

The wrapper's valueOf() method returns the primitive value.

Learn more

General knowledge

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 Last updated by: denmch,