Named parameter

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In computer programming, named parameters, named argument or keyword arguments refer to a computer language's support for function calls that clearly state the name of each parameter within the function call.


A function call using named parameters differs from a regular function call in that the values are passed by associating each one with a parameter name, instead of providing an ordered list of values.

For example, consider this Java or C# method call using no named parameters:

window.addNewControl("Title", 20, 50, 100, 50, true);

Using named parameters in Python, the call can be written as:


Using named parameters in PHP, the call can be written as:

$window->addNewControl(title: "Title",
                       xPosition: 20,
                       yPosition: 50,
                       width: 100,
                       height: 50,
                       drawingNow: True);

The version with positional arguments is more implicit. The versions with named arguments is more explicit. Depending on a given instance, a programmer may find one or the other easier to read.

Use in programming languages[edit]

Named parameters are supported explicitly in many languages. A non-exhaustive selection of examples includes Ada,[1] C# 4.0+,[2] Ceylon[citation needed], ColdFusion Markup Language (CFML)[citation needed], Common Lisp,[3] Fortran[citation needed], IDL[citation needed], Kotlin,[4] Mathematica[citation needed], PL/SQL[citation needed], PowerShell[citation needed], Python,[5] R,[6] PHP,[7] Ruby,[8] Scala,[9] Smalltalk[citation needed], Swift[10] and Visual Basic.[11] Note that Objective-C does not have named parameters (even though parts of the method name may look like named parameters).[12]

Order of parameters[edit]

In languages with no named parameters, the order of parameters in a function call is necessarily fixed, since it is the only way that the language can identify which value is intended to be used for which purpose.

With named parameters, it is usually possible to provide the values in any arbitrary order, since the name attached to each value identifies its purpose. This reduces the connascence between parts of the program. A few languages use named parameters but still require the parameters to be provided in a specific order.

Optional parameters and positional parameters[edit]

Named parameters are often used in conjunction with optional parameters. Without named parameters, optional parameters can only appear at the end of the parameter list, since there is no other way to determine which values have been omitted. In languages that support named optional parameters, however, programs may supply any subset of the available parameters, and the names are used to determine which values have been provided.

An added complication arises in languages such as OCaml that support both optional named parameters and partial application. It is impossible in general to distinguish between a function partly applied, and a function to which a subset of parameters have been provided. OCaml resolves this ambiguity by requiring a positional parameter after all optional named parameters: its presence or absence is used to decide if the function has been fully or partly applied. If all parameters are optional, the implementor may solve the issue by adding a dummy positional parameter of type unit.

In MediaWiki, the codes (variables) {{{1}}}, {{{2}}} in templates and so on, will be replaced by the first, second, and so on unnamed parameter (or the value of a parameter named 1, 2, etc.); these are known as positional parameters.


In languages without named parameters, some of the same benefits can be achieved in other ways.

With documentation[edit]

Their value as documentation can be replicated by tooltips in integrated development environments (IDEs) for languages such as Java, or with comments (in C):

    20,  /* x coordinate */
    50,  /* y coordinate */
    100, /* width */
    5,   /* height */
    TRUE /* drawing now? */

But this provides no checking, and the order of arguments remains important.

With data structures[edit]

Removing the argument order restriction, and the ability to leave some values unspecified, can be achieved by passing a record or associative array.

For example, in JavaScript, these two calls are equivalent:

MyFunctionCall({ xPosition: 20, yPosition: 50, width: 100, height: 5,
                 drawingNow: true });
MyFunctionCall({ width: 100, height: 5, xPosition: 20, yPosition: 50,
                 drawingNow: true });

Compare to C99:[13]

struct MyParam {
    int xPosition;
    int yPosition;
    int width;
    int height;
    unsigned char drawingNow;

MyParam parameters = { .xPosition = 20, .yPosition = 50,
        .width = 100, .height = 5, .drawingNow  = TRUE };

Special Support[edit]

In Perl and pre-2.0 Ruby a similar convention exists (generally called a hash or options hash[14]), with special support for omitting the delimiters within function calls. As an example, the core module's Net::FTP new function accepts a hash of optional arguments.[15]

With chained method calls[edit]

In object-oriented programming languages, it is possible to use method chaining to simulate named parameters, as a form of fluent interface. Each named parameter is replaced with a method on a parameter object that modifies and then returns the object. In C++, this is termed the named parameter idiom.[16] The object may then be passed to a function that uses the parameters it contains.

Method chaining is often used in conjunction with the builder pattern as a way to override default values provided by the builder class.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Reference Manual for the Ada Programming Language. United States Department of Defense. 1983.
  2. ^ BillWagner. "Named and Optional Arguments - C# Programming Guide". Retrieved 2021-06-16.
  3. ^ "Functions". Retrieved 2021-10-28.
  4. ^ "Functions | Kotlin". Kotlin Help. Retrieved 2021-06-16.
  5. ^ "8. Compound statements". Retrieved 2021-10-28.
  6. ^ "10.3 Named arguments and defaults". An Introduction to R. Retrieved 2021-10-28.
  7. ^ "PHP: Function arguments - Manual". Retrieved 2021-06-16.
  8. ^ "Ruby 2 Keyword Arguments". 21 July 2014. Retrieved 2021-10-28.
  9. ^ "Named Arguments". Scala Documentation. Retrieved 2021-06-16.
  10. ^ "Functions — The Swift Programming Language (Swift 5.1)". Retrieved 2020-01-27.
  11. ^ KathleenDollard. "Passing Arguments by Position and by Name - Visual Basic". Retrieved 2021-06-16.
  12. ^ Developer Library - The Implementation of a Class Provides Its Internal Behavior
  13. ^ "Designated Inits (Using the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC))".
  14. ^ Programming Perl 2.9: Hashes
  15. ^ Perl core module Net::FTP
  16. ^ C++ FAQ, 10.20 What is the "Named Parameter Idiom"?

External links[edit]