What is the difference between a function expression vs declaration in JavaScript? [duplicate]

This question already has an answer here:

What is the difference between the following lines of code?

//Function declaration
function foo() { return 5; }

//Anonymous function expression
var foo = function() { return 5; }

//Named function expression
var foo = function foo() { return 5; }
  • What is a named/anonymous function expression?
  • What is a declared function?
  • How do browsers deal with these constructs differently?

What do the responses to a similar question (var functionName = function() {} vs function functionName() {}) not get exactly right?

They're actually really similar. How you call them is exactly the same.The difference lies in how the browser loads them into the execution context.

Function declarations load before any code is executed.

Function expressions load only when the interpreter reaches that line of code.

So if you try to call a function expression before it's loaded, you'll get an error! If you call a function declaration instead, it'll always work, because no code can be called until all declarations are loaded.

Example: Function Expression

alert(foo()); // ERROR! foo wasn't loaded yet
var foo = function() { return 5; } 

Example: Function Declaration

alert(foo()); // Alerts 5. Declarations are loaded before any code can run.
function foo() { return 5; } 

As for the second part of your question:

var foo = function foo() { return 5; } is really the same as the other two. It's just that this line of code used to cause an error in safari, though it no longer does.

Function Declaration

function foo() { ... }

Because of function hoisting, the function declared this way can be called both after and before the definition.

Function Expression

  1. Named Function Expression

    var foo = function bar() { ... }
  2. Anonymous Function Expression

    var foo = function() { ... }

foo() can be called only after creation.

Immediately-Invoked Function Expression (IIFE)

(function() { ... }());


Crockford recommends to use function expression because it makes it clear that foo is a variable containing a function value. Well, personally, I prefer to use Declaration unless there is a reason for Expression.

Regarding 3rd definition:

var foo = function foo() { return 5; }

Heres an example which shows how to use possibility of recursive call:

a = function b(i) { 
  if (i>10) {
    return i;
  else {
    return b(++i);

console.log(a(5));  // outputs 11
console.log(a(10)); // outputs 11
console.log(a(11)); // outputs 11
console.log(a(15)); // outputs 15

Edit: more interesting example with closures:

a = function(c) {
 return function b(i){
  if (i>c) {
   return i;
  return b(++i);
d = a(5);
console.log(d(3)); // outputs 6
console.log(d(8)); // outputs 8

The first statement depends on the context in which it is declared.

If it is declared in the global context it will create an implied global variable called "foo" which will be a variable which points to the function. Thus the function call "foo()" can be made anywhere in your javascript program.

If the function is created in a closure it will create an implied local variable called "foo" which you can then use to invoke the function inside the closure with "foo()"


I should have also said that function statements (The first one) are parsed before function expressions (The other 2). This means that if you declare the function at the bottom of your script you will still be able to use it at the top. Function expressions only get evaluated as they are hit by the executing code.


Statements 2 & 3 are pretty much equivalent to each other. Again if used in the global context they will create global variables and if used within a closure will create local variables. However it is worth noting that statement 3 will ignore the function name, so esentially you could call the function anything. Therefore

var foo = function foo() { return 5; }

Is the same as

var foo = function fooYou() { return 5; }

Though the complete difference is more complicated, the only difference that concerns me is when the machine creates the function object. Which in the case of declarations is before any statement is executed but after a statement body is invoked (be that the global code body or a sub-function's), and in the case of expressions is when the statement it is in gets executed. Other than that for all intents and purposes browsers treat them the same.

To help you understand, take a look at this performance test which busted an assumption I had made of internally declared functions not needing to be re-created by the machine when the outer function is invoked. Kind of a shame too as I liked writing code that way.