undefined

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The global undefined property represents the primitive value undefined. It is one of JavaScript's primitive types.

Property attributes of undefined
Writable no
Enumerable no
Configurable no

Syntax

undefined

Description

undefined is a property of the global object; i.e., it is a variable in global scope. The initial value of undefined is the primitive value undefined.

In modern browsers (JavaScript 1.8.5 / Firefox 4+), undefined is a non-configurable, non-writable property per the ECMAScript 5 specification. Even when this is not the case, avoid overriding it.

A variable that has not been assigned a value is of type undefined. A method or statement also returns undefined if the variable that is being evaluated does not have an assigned value. A function returns undefined if a value was not returned.

While it is possible to use it as an identifier (variable name) in any scope other than the global scope (because undefined is not a reserved word), doing so is a very bad idea that will make your code difficult to maintain and debug.

//DON'T DO THIS

// logs "foo string"
(function() { var undefined = 'foo'; console.log(undefined, typeof undefined); })();

// logs "foo string"
(function(undefined) { console.log(undefined, typeof undefined); })('foo');

Examples

Strict equality and undefined

You can use undefined and the strict equality and inequality operators to determine whether a variable has a value. In the following code, the variable x is not initialized, and the if statement evaluates to true.

var x;
if (x === undefined) {
   // these statements execute
}
else {
   // these statements do not execute
}

Note: The strict equality operator rather than the standard equality operator must be used here, because x == undefined also checks whether x is null, while strict equality doesn't. null is not equivalent to undefined. See comparison operators for details.

Typeof operator and undefined

Alternatively, typeof can be used:

var x;
if (typeof x === 'undefined') {
   // these statements execute
}

One reason to use typeof is that it does not throw an error if the variable has not been declared.

// x has not been declared before
if (typeof x === 'undefined') { // evaluates to true without errors
   // these statements execute
}

if (x === undefined) { // throws a ReferenceError

}

However, there is another alternative. JavaScript is a statically scoped language, so knowing if a variable is declared can be read by seeing whether it is declared in an enclosing context.

The global scope is bound to the global object, so checking the existence of a variable in the global context can be done by checking the existence of a property on the global object, using the in operator, for instance:

if ('x' in window) {
  // these statements execute only if x is defined globally 
}

Void operator and undefined

The void operator is a third alternative.

var x;
if (x === void 0) {
   // these statements execute
}

// y has not been declared before
if (y === void 0) {
   // throws a - Uncaught ReferenceError: y is not defined
}

Specifications

Specification Status Comment
ECMAScript 1st Edition (ECMA-262)
The definition of 'undefined' in that specification.
Standard Initial definition. Implemented in JavaScript 1.3.
ECMAScript 5.1 (ECMA-262)
The definition of 'undefined' in that specification.
Standard
ECMAScript 2015 (6th Edition, ECMA-262)
The definition of 'undefined' in that specification.
Standard
ECMAScript Latest Draft (ECMA-262)
The definition of 'undefined' in that specification.
Draft

Browser compatibility

Update compatibility data on GitHub
DesktopMobileServer
ChromeEdgeFirefoxInternet ExplorerOperaSafariAndroid webviewChrome for AndroidFirefox for AndroidOpera for AndroidSafari on iOSSamsung InternetNode.js
undefinedChrome Full support 1Edge Full support 12Firefox Full support 1IE Full support 5.5Opera Full support YesSafari Full support YesWebView Android Full support 1Chrome Android Full support 18Firefox Android Full support 4Opera Android Full support YesSafari iOS Full support YesSamsung Internet Android Full support 1.0nodejs Full support Yes

Legend

Full support  
Full support