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JavaScript gotcha: global variable assignment

I’ve written before about the importance of keeping your code out of the global, and shared some simple techniques on how to do so.

One gotcha that sometimes catches people by surprise: if you omit the variable definition operator (var, let, or const) and the variable doesn’t already exist, it’s automatically added to the window object, or global scope.

// This is an IIFE, designed to keep code out of the global scope
(function () {

	// This variable is scoped inside the IIFE
	// It cannot be accessed outside of this function
	var lunch = 'turkey sandwich';

	// This variable is automatically added to the global scope
	// It CAN be accessed outside of this function
	dinner = 'pasta and meatballs';


// Logs "pasta and meatballs"

// Throws an error:
// Uncaught ReferenceError: lunch is not defined

Here’s a demo of this that you can play with.

Make sure you always add var, let, or const before your variable when defining it for the first time. Not sure which to use? Here’s how they’re different, and why I always use var.