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let, var, and const

ES6 introduced two new ways to define variables: let and const.

They’ve been the source of a fair bit of confusion, particularly around when to use which. Let’s clear that up.


let does the almost the same exact thing as var.

The big difference between let and var is that you can’t redefine a variable set with let in the same scope.

// The value of `sandwich` is "tuna"
var sandwich = 'tuna';

// The value of `sandwich` is now "chicken"
var sandwich = 'chicken';

// The value of `chips` is "Cape Cod"
let chips = 'Cape Cod';

// Throws an error: "Uncaught SyntaxError: Identifier 'chips' has already been declared"
let chips = 'Lays';

You can still change the value of chips. You just can’t define it as a new variable once it’s already been defined within the current scope.

You can use let to define a new variable with the same name in a different scope, though.

// The value of `chips` is "Cape Cod"
let chips = 'Cape Cod';

// The value of `chips` is now "Lays"
chips = 'Lays';

var getChips = function () {

    // This works because it's a different scope
    let chips = 'Wise';

    // Returns "Wise"
    return chips;


// Logs "Lays" in the console


Unlike var and let, if you define a variable with const, it cannot be given a new value. It is, as the term implies, constant.

// The value of sandwich is "tuna"
const sandwich = 'tuna';

// Throws an error: "Uncaught TypeError: Assignment to constant variable."
sandwich = 'chicken';

Browser Compatibility

let and const work in all modern browsers, and IE11 and up. They cannot be polyfilled.

To push support back further, you would need to use a compiler like Babel. Babel does actually have an “in the browser” version you can load with a script tag, but… it requires you to inline your entire script, so it’s not really a good solution for production sites.