Skip to main content Accessibility Feedback

The spread syntax operator in vanilla JS

One modern JS feature that I found super confusing a long time is the spread syntax operator. It’s one of those things that’s really simple, really powerful, and definitely overused.

Today, let’s take a look at what it is, how it works, and when you might want to use it.

How the spread operator works

The spread syntax operator (...) takes an array or object (or other iterable) and expands its items into their own individual values.

let sandwiches = ['tuna', 'turkey', 'pb&j'];

// logs ["tuna", "turkey", "pb&j"]

// logs tuna turkey pb&j

The spread operator can only be used inside of functions, arrays and objects. You cannot use it on its own.

This, for example, would throw an error.

// Uncaught SyntaxError: Unexpected token '...'

The spread operator can be really useful for some specific situations.

Passing an array of arguments into a function as individual arguments

Imagine you have a function, add(), that accepts two numbers as arguments and adds them together.

// Add two numbers together
function add (num1, num2) {
	return num1 + num2;

And, you have an array of numbers.

let numbers = [4, 2];

Instead of using bracket notation to get each number and pass it in individually, you can use the spread operator to break the numbers array into individual items.

// Instead of this...
// returns 6
add(numbers[0], numbers[1]);

// You can do this...
// returns 6

Here’s a demo.

Combine or copy an array or object

You can also use the spread operator to combine or copy arrays or objects.

// Some arrays
let sandwiches1 = ['tuna', 'turkey', 'pb&j'];
let sandwiches2 = ['chicken', 'pb&j'];

// Some objects
let radagast1 = {
	color: 'brown',
	druid: true
let radagast2 = {
	skills: 'Talks with animals'

// Copy an array
// Works like Array.from(sandwiches)
let sandwichesCopy = [...sandwiches1];

// Copy an object
// Works like Object.assign({}, radagst1);
let radagastCopy = {...radagast1};

// Combine two arrays
// Works like sandwiches1.concat(sandwiches2)
let moreSandwiches = [...sandwiches1, ...sandwiches2];

// Combine two objects
// Works like Object.assign({}, radagast1, radagast2);
let moreRadagast = {...radagast1, ...radagast2};

Here’s another demo.

I personally prefer to use methods like Array.from(), Array.concat(), and Object.assign() over the spread operator for things like this. I find that it makes the intent of your code more clear and obvious.

But you will see this approach used in code, so it’s worth understanding how it works.

Browser Compatibility

The spread syntax works in all modern browsers, but not IE. It cannot be polyfilled.

However, with Microsoft dropping support for IE in their own web apps this summer, I’m ready to do that same.