JavaScript Let vs. Var: What’s the Difference?

SQL Vs. JavaScript

JavaScript Let vs. Var: What’s the Difference?

Key Points

  • Let and var are both variable declarations in JavaScript, but let has block scope while var has function scope.
  • Let is not subject to hoisting, while var is hoisted to the top of its scope.
  • Let enforces strict mode and prevents accidental redeclaration of variables within the same scope, while var does not offer such protection.

JavaScript introduces two variable declarations, “let” and “var,” which may seem similar at first glance. However, their dissimilarities hold crucial implications for variable scope and hoisting behavior. When using “let,” the variable is block-scoped, meaning it exists only within the block we define it in. On the other hand, “var” has a function scope and can be accessed throughout the entire function. Moreover, unlike “let,” “var” is subject to hoisting, where variable declarations are moved to the top of their scope. Understanding these distinctions is essential for effectively managing variable scoping in JavaScript.

JavaScript Let vs. Var: Side by Side Comparison

ScopeBlock scopeFunction scope
HoistingNot hoistedHoisted to the top of its scope
Re-declarationCannot re-declare within the same scopeCan be re-declared within the same scope
InitializationNot automatically initializedAutomatically initialized with “undefined”
Temporal Dead ZoneVariables are not accessible before we declare themVariables are accessible before we declare them
Global scopeNot attached to the global object (“window” in browsers)Attached to the global object
Javascript Node JS code
Declaring a variable in JavaScript using “var” results in a new variable with a global scope.


JavaScript Let vs. Var: What’s the Difference?

JavaScript “let” and “var” are both variable declarations used in programming. While they serve a similar purpose, their distinct differences can affect your coding choices. Understanding these dissimilarities will enable you to make an informed decision based on your specific requirements and coding preferences.

Variable Scope

ECMAScript 6 (ES6) introduced the “let,” which we can use to declare variables with block scope. If you declare a variable using “let” inside a block, like a loop or an if statement, you can only access it within that block. This means that the block in which we defined the variable limits its scope. If you use the same variable name outside the block, the system would consider it as a different variable. This block-level scoping helps prevent naming conflicts and improves code readability and maintainability.

On the other hand, the “var,” which has been available since the early versions of JavaScript, has function-level or global scope. Suppose you declare a variable using “var”. In that case, the entire function in which it’s defined can access it, or if declared outside any function, it becomes a global variable accessible across the entire program. This could cause unintended consequences and naming conflicts, particularly when declaring variables within nested blocks.


JavaScript doesn’t hoist variables declared with “let”. In JavaScript, the behavior of hoisting moves variable declarations to the top of their scope during compilation. When JavaScript hoists a variable declared with “let,” it puts the variable in a “temporal dead zone” until it executes the line of code where it’s defined. This means that attempting to access a “let”-declared variable before its declaration will result in a ReferenceError. This behavior promotes cleaner code by enforcing proper variable declaration before usage.

In contrast, variables declared with “var” are hoisted to the top of their scope and initialized with the” undefined” value. This means that you can access and use a “var”-declared variable before its actual declaration in the code. Hoisting can offer convenience in some cases but can also cause unexpected behaviors and bugs when you need to declare or initialize variables properly.

Block-Level Declarations

The “let” allows for block-level declarations, which means that variables declared with “let” are only accessible within the block in which they are defined. This block-level scoping enables developers to write more modular and maintainable code by limiting the visibility and lifespan of variables to the appropriate block. For example, when using a “for” loop, you can declare the loop counter variable with “let” to ensure it is scoped to the loop and not accessible outside.

Variables declared with “var” have function scope or global scope. This implies that a “var”-declared variable is accessible throughout the entire function where you have defined it. If declared outside any function, it becomes a global variable accessible across the entire program. This feature offers convenience in certain situations but can also result in unintended consequences and naming conflicts, particularly when working with large codebases or nested functions.

Reassignment and Re-Declaration

You can reassign a new value to variables declared with “let,” but you cannot re-declare them within the same block scope. This means that once you declare a variable with “let,” you cannot declare another variable with the same name within the same block. This helps prevent accidental variable re-declaration, which can lead to confusion and bugs in the code. However, you can assign a new value to the existing “let”-declared variable within the block scope.

Contrastingly, you can reassign and re-declare variables declared with “var” within the same function or global scope. This signifies that you can use the same variable name to declare multiple variables within the same scope. While this flexibility can be useful in certain scenarios, it can also make the code harder to read and maintain, as the same variable name can have different values and meanings within different parts of the code.

Temporal Dead Zone

When using “let” to declare a variable, it is subject to the temporal dead zone (TDZ). The Temporal Dead Zone (TDZ) extends from the start of a block until the point when someone declares a variable with “let.” Attempting to access the variable during this phase triggers a ReferenceError. The TDZ concludes once you declare the variable, which then lets you access and assign a value to it. This behavior encourages developers to declare variables at the beginning of the block, promoting cleaner and more predictable code.

Variables declared with “var” do not have a temporal dead zone. The scope hoists them to its top, making them accessible anywhere within that scope, even before declaring them. But it’s important to highlight that variables declared with “var” initially receive the value “undefined” until the code assigns them a real value. If you access the variable before assigning it a meaningful value, this can cause unexpected behavior.

Scope in Loops

A new variable scope is created for each iteration when using “let” in a loop, such as a “for” loop. This means that variables declared with “let” inside the loop are unique to each iteration and retain their values only within that specific iteration. This behavior is particularly useful when dealing with asynchronous operations inside loops, as it prevents unintended side effects or shared variable values between iterations.

In contrast, variables declared with “var” in a loop do not have block scope. The variable is shared across all iterations of the loop, leading to potential bugs and unexpected behavior if the variable needs to be properly managed within the loop. Changes to the variable’s value in one iteration will affect its value in subsequent iterations, which can introduce hard-to-detect errors.

Accessibility in Immediately Invoked Function Expressions (IIFE)

In Immediately Invoked Function Expressions (IIFE), variables declared with “let” are not accessible outside the IIFE. “Let” variables have block scope, which limits them to the scope where we define them. Hence, if we declare any variables with “let” within an Immediately Invoked Function Expression (IIFE), we can only access or modify them within the scope of that IIFE, and not from outside the function. This provides encapsulation and avoids polluting the global scope with unnecessary variables.

On the other hand, variables declared with “var” in an IIFE are accessible outside the IIFE’s scope. “Var” variables have function-level scope, allowing access and modification from outside the Immediately Invoked Function Expression (IIFE). This possibility can cause conflicts and unintended side effects. So, you need to exercise caution when using “var” in an IIFE to prevent accidental manipulation of variables from the global scope.

Error Handling in a Temporal Dead Zone

Suppose you declare variables with “let,” and an error occurs within the temporal dead zone (TDZ) before declaring the variable. In that case, the error actively prevents declaring the variable and assigning it a value. This behavior helps catch errors early and encourages developers to handle potential issues proactively. It ensures the proper definition and initialization of variables before accessing them, which reduces the risk of using variables in an unexpected or incorrect state.

Contrarily, if you declare variables using “var,” the hoisting phase doesn’t catch any errors before the declaration. The system hoists the variable to the top of the scope, initializing it with an “undefined” value. This situation could lead to silent errors if you access or manipulate the variable without realizing that the system hasn’t properly initialized it. Such errors can be difficult to debug and may cause unexpected behavior in the code.

C++ vs. JavaScript
A Programmer would often use “let” rather than “var” to declare variables in JavaScript in order to avoid errors that arise from accessing the variables before they have been initialized.


JavaScript Let vs. Var: Must-Know Facts

  • In JavaScript, the “let” introduces block scope, which limits variables to the block where they are defined.
  • Variables declared with “let” do not get hoisted to the top of their scope, unlike “var,” which ensures that they are only accessible after their declaration.
  • You can reassign “let” variables within their scope, providing the flexibility to change their values during program execution.
  • “var,” on the other hand, has function scope, making variables accessible throughout the entire function, regardless of block boundaries.
  • The JavaScript engine hoists variables declared with “var” to the top of their scope, which means you can access them before their actual declaration in the code.
  • Redeclaring a variable using “let” within the same block scope throws an error, preventing accidental variable shadowing.
  • You can redeclare “var” variables within the same scope without raising an error, which can potentially cause unexpected behavior.
  • When used in a for loop, variables declared with “let” maintain separate values for each iteration, preventing common issues encountered with “var” variables in loop constructs.

JavaScript Let vs. Var: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?

You must consider several elements when deciding between JavaScript’s “let” and “var” and determine which suits a particular use case better. Both “let” and “var” serve the purpose of variable declaration, but they show distinct behaviors and possess specific scopes. These differences can influence the functionality and maintainability of your code.

ECMAScript 6 introduced block scoping to JavaScript by introducing “let,” which confines the scope of variables declared with “let” to the block where developers define them. On the other hand, “var” operates with function scope and doesn’t limit itself to the block where developers declare it. This fundamental difference has significant implications for variable hoisting and can lead to unintended consequences and bugs when using “var.”

Further, “let” enforces strict mode, enhancing code readability and preventing accidental redeclaration of variables within the same scope. In contrast, “var” does not offer such protection, leading to potential conflicts and harder-to-debug issues.

The preference for “let” over “var” has become the industry standard due to its block scoping, strict mode adherence, and improved code maintainability. However, there may still be scenarios where “var” is more suitable, particularly when backward compatibility with older JavaScript environments is a concern.

In conclusion, when deciding between “let” and “var,” it is essential to consider the project’s scope, strict mode enforcement, and compatibility requirements. While “let” is typically favored for its improved scoping and stricter rules, “var” may still find its use in specific situations. Ultimately, the choice depends on the specific needs and goals of the project, with “let” serving as the default choice for modern JavaScript development.

JavaScript Let vs. Var: What’s the Difference? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

When should I use "let" instead of "var" in JavaScript?

You should use “let” instead of “var” in JavaScript when you must declare a variable limited to a specific block of code, such as a loop or an if statement. By using “let,” you ensure that the variable is only accessible within that block, which helps prevent unintended variable hoisting or global namespace pollution. Using “let” also allows for better code readability and maintainability by clearly defining variable scopes.

Can I redeclare a variable using "let" or "var" in JavaScript?

In JavaScript, you cannot redeclare a variable using “let” or “var” within the same scope. However, you can shadow a variable by declaring another variable with the same name within a nested scope. If you attempt to redeclare a variable with “var” in the same scope, it will not throw an error but will simply update the value of the existing variable. On the other hand, redeclaring a variable with the same name using “let” in the same scope will result in a syntax error.

Are there any differences in variable hoisting between "let" and "var" in JavaScript?

Yes, there are differences in variable hoisting between “let” and “var” in JavaScript. Variables declared with “var” are hoisted to the top of their function scope, meaning you can access them before they are declared in the code. However, they will have the value “undefined” until they are assigned a value. Variables declared with “let” are also hoisted but not initialized until their declaration is encountered in the code. This prevents the “temporal dead zone” phenomenon where variables declared with “let” cannot be accessed before their declaration.

How does "let" affect closures in JavaScript compared to "var"?

In JavaScript, “let” and “var” behave differently when it comes to closures. Variables declared with “var” have function scope, so they are accessible within the entire enclosing function, including any nested functions. This can lead to unexpected behavior and potential bugs if not used carefully. On the other hand, variables declared with “let” have block scope and are limited to the block in which they are declared. This provides better encapsulation and avoids unintentional sharing of variables among nested functions, resulting in more predictable and maintainable code.

Is there a performance difference between "let" and "var" in JavaScript?

In terms of performance, there is typically no significant difference between “let” and “var” in JavaScript. Both “let” and “var” variables are stored in memory and accessed similarly. Therefore, the choice between “let” and “var” should be based on their intended usage and scoping rules, rather than on performance considerations. It’s always recommended to prioritize code readability, maintainability, and adherence to best practices over micro-optimizations.

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