wtf-is/

Hoisting

JavaScript

Probably the most common interview questions after var vs. let vs. const, what the fuck is hoisting?

hoist (noun) · 1: to raise into position by or as if by means of tackle

Meriam-Webster

JavaScript hoisting refers to the process where the interpreter appears to move declarations to the top of their scope before executing the code.

Take a look at the following code snippet:

price = 420;

var price;

console.log(price);

By just looking at the code, these are the following steps that seems to happen:

  1. assign 420 value to price
  2. declare price as a variable with var
  3. reference the variable with console.log()

Before the interpreter actually executes the code, the interpreter looks for all the declarations and hoists them to the top of their respective scope in memory.

Using the same snippet above, here's what happens:

price = 420;

var price; // <- found declaration, hoisted

console.log(price); // 420
  1. found declaration var price; hoisted to the top of scope
  2. assign 420 value to price
  3. execute console.log()

JavaScript only hoists declarations and not initializations.

Initialization only happens until the line of code is executed.

Updating the code snippet above to the following will log undefined:

console.log(price);

var price = 420;

The default initialization of the var is undefined.

So how does the interpreter know that price is a variable and it did not throw a ReferenceError? It means that the interpreter knows the price variable before it does console.log(). The variable declaration happened first before executing the code.

Now what will happen if we change var to let or const?

console.log(price); // Uncaught ReferenceError: price is not defined

let price = 420;

Variables declared with let and const are also hoisted but, unlike var, they are not initialized with a given value.

A common advantage of utilizing hoisting is that it allows you to use a function before you declare it in your code.

Here's an example:

body();

function body() {
  doSomething();
  doAnotherThing();
  // ...some other code
}

function doSomething() {
  console.log('This is something');
}

function doAnotherThing() {
  console.log('This is just another thing to do');
}

Writing this way makes it easier to read and understand the code as you will see more of your business logic and less of the supporting functions declared below.

It's important to note that hoisting does not move the declarations to the top of their scope physically. It only happens in memory... in the JavaScript universe.

A more detailed explanation on how hoisting works for let, const and class can be found at MDN.

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