A record is a data structure that is similar to a class except it has value semantics, similar to primitive types. Value semantics mean that assignment, argument passing and function return values are by default all done by copying. Value semantics also imply that a variable of record type is associated with only one piece of storage and has only one type throughout its lifetime. Storage is allocated for a variable of record type when the variable declaration is executed, and the record variable is also initialized at that time. When the record variable goes out of scope, or at the end of the program if it is declared at module scope, it is deinitialized and its storage is deallocated.

A record declaration statement creates a record type Record Declarations. A variable of record type contains all and only the fields defined by that type (Record Types). Value semantics imply that the type of a record variable is known at compile time (i.e. it is statically typed).

A record can be created using the new operator, which allocates storage, initializes it via a call to a record initializer, and returns it. A record is also created upon a variable declaration of a record type.

A record type is generic if it contains generic fields. Generic record types are discussed in detail in Generic Types.

Record Declarations

A record type is defined with the following syntax:


  'record' identifier { record-statement-list }

  record-statement record-statement-list


A record-declaration-statement defines a new type symbol specified by the identifier. As in a class declaration, the body of a record declaration can contain variable, method, and type declarations.

If a record declaration contains a type alias or parameter field, or it contains a variable or constant field without a specified type and without an initialization expression, then it declares a generic record type. Generic record types are described in Generic Types.

If the extern keyword appears before the record keyword, then an external record type is declared. An external record is used within Chapel for type and field resolution, but no corresponding backend definition is generated. It is presumed that the definition of an external record is supplied by a library or the execution environment. See the chapter on interoperability (Interoperability) for more information on external records.



Privacy controls for classes and records are currently not specified, as discussion is needed regarding its impact on inheritance, for instance.

Record Types

A record type specifier simply names a record type, using the following syntax:

  identifier ( named-expression-list )

A record type specifier may appear anywhere a type specifier is permitted.

For non-generic records, the record name by itself is sufficient to specify the type. Generic records must be instantiated to serve as a fully-specified type, for example to declare a variable. This is done with type constructors, which are defined in Section The Type Constructor.

Record Fields

Variable declarations within a record type declaration define fields within that record type. The presence of at least one parameter field causes the record type to become generic. Variable fields define the storage associated with a record.

Example (defineActorRecord.chpl).

The code

record ActorRecord {
  var name: string;
  var age: uint;

defines a new record type called ActorRecord that has two fields: the string field name and the unsigned integer field age. The data contained by a record of this type is exactly the same as that contained by an instance of the Actor class defined in the preceding chapter Class Fields.

Record Methods

A record method is a function or iterator that is bound to a record. See the methods section Methods for more information about methods.

Note that the receiver of a record method is passed by ref or const ref intent by default, depending on whether or not this is modified in the body of the method.

Nested Record Types

A record defined within another class or record is a nested record. A nested record can be referenced only within its immediately enclosing class or record.

Record Variable Declarations

A record variable declaration is a variable declaration using a record type. When a variable of record type is declared, storage is allocated sufficient to store all of the fields defined in that record type.

In the context of a class or record or union declaration, the fields are allocated within the object as if they had been declared individually. In this sense, records provide a way to group related fields within a containing class or record type.

In the context of a function body, a record variable declaration causes storage to be allocated sufficient to store all of the fields in that record type. The record variable is initialized with a call to an initializer (Class Initializers) that accepts zero actual arguments.

Storage Allocation

Storage for a record variable directly contains the data associated with the fields in the record, in the same manner as variables of primitive types directly contain the primitive values. Unlike class variables, the field data of one record variable is not shared with data of another record variable.

Record storage is reclaimed automatically. See Variable Lifetimes for details on when a record becomes dead.

Record Initialization

When default initializing a record (see Variable Lifetimes), an init method on the record will be called. For a concrete record, init wil be called with no arguments. For an instantiated generic record, the type and param arguments are passed by name.

The compiler-generated default initializer for a record is defined in the same way as the default initializer for a class (The Compiler-Generated Initializer).

To create a record as an expression, i.e. without binding it to a variable, the new operator is required. In this case, storage is allocated and reclaimed as for a record variable declaration (Storage Allocation), except that the temporary record goes out of scope at the end of the enclosing block.

The initializers for a record are defined in the same way as those for a class (Class Initializers). Note that records do not support inheritance and therefore the initializer rules for inheriting classes (Initializing Inherited Classes) do not apply to record initializers.

Example (recordCreation.chpl).

The program

record TimeStamp {
  var time: string = "1/1/1011";

var timestampDefault: TimeStamp;                  // use the default for 'time'
var timestampCustom = new TimeStamp("2/2/2022");  // ... or a different one

var idCounter = 0;
record UniqueID {
  var id: int;
  proc init() { idCounter += 1; id = idCounter; }

var firstID : UniqueID; // invokes zero-argument initializer
writeln(new UniqueID());  // create and use a record value without a variable
writeln(new UniqueID());

produces the output

(time = 1/1/1011)
(time = 2/2/2022)
(id = 1)
(id = 2)
(id = 3)

The variable timestampDefault is initialized with TimeStamp’s default initializer. The expression new TimeStamp creates a record that is assigned to timestampCustom. It effectively initializes timestampCustom via a call to the initializer with desired arguments. The records created with new UniqueID() are discarded after they are used.

As with classes, the user can provide their own initializers (User-Defined Initializers). If any user-defined initializers are supplied, the default initializer cannot be called directly.

Record Deinitializer

A record author may specify additional actions to be performed before record storage is reclaimed by defining a record deinitializer. A record deinitializer is a method named deinit(). A record deinitializer takes no arguments (aside from the implicit this argument). If defined, the deinitializer is called on a record object after it goes out of scope and before its memory is reclaimed.

Example (recordDeinitializer.chpl).

class C { var x: int; } // A class with nonzero size.
// If the class were empty, whether or not its memory was reclaimed
// would not be observable.

// Defines a record implementing simple memory management.
record R {
  var c: unmanaged C;
  proc init() {
    c = new unmanaged C(0);
  proc deinit() {
    delete c;

proc foo()
  var r: R; // Initialized using default initializer.
  // r will go out of scope here.
  // Its deinitializer will be called to free the C object it contains.


Record Arguments

Record formal arguments with the in intent will be copy-initialized into the function’s formal argument (Copy Initialization of Records).

Record formal arguments with inout or out intent will be updated by the record assignment function (Record Assignment).

Example (paramPassing.chpl).

The program

record MyColor {
  var color: int;
proc printMyColor(in mc: MyColor) {
  writeln("my color is ", mc.color);
  mc.color = 6;   // does not affect the caller's record
var mc1: MyColor;        // 'color' defaults to 0
var mc2: MyColor = mc1;  // mc1's value is copied into mc2
mc1.color = 3;           // mc1's value is modified
printMyColor(mc2);       // mc2 is not affected by assignment to mc1
printMyColor(mc2);       // ... or by assignment in printMyColor()

proc modifyMyColor(inout mc: MyColor, newcolor: int) {
  mc.color = newcolor;
modifyMyColor(mc2, 7);   // mc2 is affected because of the 'inout' intent


my color is 0
my color is 0
my color is 7

The assignment to mc1.color affects only the record stored in mc1. The record in mc2 is not affected by the assignment to mc1 or by the assignment in printMyColor. mc2 is affected by the assignment in modifyMyColor because the intent inout is used.

Record Field Access

A record field is accessed the same way as a class field (Field Accesses). When a field access is used as an rvalue, the value of that field is returned. When it is used as an lvalue, the value of the record field is updated.

Accessing a parameter or type field returns a parameter or type, respectively. Also, parameter and type fields can be accessed from an instantiated record type in addition to from a record value.

Field Getter Methods

As in classes, field accesses are performed via getter methods (Variable Getter Methods). By default, these methods simply return a reference to the specified field (so they can be written as well as read). The user may redefine these as needed.

Record Method Calls

Record method calls are written the same way as other method calls (Method Calls). Unlike class methods, record methods are always resolved at compile time.

Common Operations

Copy Initialization of Records

When a new record variable is created based upon an existing variable, it is copy initialized or move initialized as described in Copy and Move Initialization. When a record is copy initialized, its init= initializer will be used to create the new record.

Copy initialization is implemented by a method named init=, known as the copy initializer. A copy initializer may only accept one argument, which represents the value from which the record will be initialized. These methods share the same rules as a normal initializer (Class Initializers), along with some additional restrictions.

The compiler-generated copy initializer for a non-generic record accepts an argument of the same type and simply initializes each field from the argument’s corresponding field:

record R {
  var x, y, z: int;

// identical to compiler-generated implementation
// proc R.init=(other: R) {
//   this.x = other.x;
//   this.y = other.y;
//   this.z = other.z;
// }

In order to override the compiler-generated implementation, the user must implement an init= method with the same signature.

proc R.init=(other: R) {
  this.x = other.x;
  this.y = other.y;
  this.z = other.z;
  writeln("copied R!");


If a user implements their own init= method, they must also implement an assignment operator for the same record type. Implementing one without the other will cause the compiler to issue an error. Rationale: this requirement exists to mitigate hard-to-debug problems by requiring that type authors take responsibility for both init= and = implementations, or neither implementation.

A user may indicate that a type is not copyable by adding a where-clause to the init= implementation that evaluates to false:

proc R.init=(other: R) where false {

The compiler-generated copy initializer for a generic type uses the expression this.type as the argument’s type to ensure that the types of the original record and its copy are the same:

record G {
  type T;
  var x : T;

// compiler-generated init= for 'G'
// proc G.init=(other: this.type) {
//   this.T = other.T;
//   this.x = other.x;
// }

Note that the generic fields must still be manually initialized, despite the type already being known. Future work may allow these fields to be inferred.

Advanced Copy Initialization

A copy initializer can also be used to specify how a record should be initialized from a value of an arbitrary type. This kind of copy initializer is invoked when a variable declaration’s initialization expression is not of the same type as the record being initialized. For example:

record MyString {
  var s : string;

// normal copy initializer
proc MyString.init=(other: MyString) {
  this.s = other.s;
  writeln("normal init=");

// initialize from a string
proc MyString.init=(other: string) {
  this.s = other;
  writeln("string init=");

var A = new MyString("hello");
var B = A; // "normal init="
var C : MyString = "goodbye"; // "string init="

Generic types can rely on the this.type expression to implement these kinds of copy initializers with the desired type constraints. The this.type expression will evaluate to the type provided by the user at the variable declaration:

record Wrapper {
  type T;
  var x : T;

// normal copy initializer
proc Wrapper.init=(other: this.type) { ... }

// An incorrect attempt: ignores the user-specified type, and uses the
// value's type (which might not be the same!)
// i.e. 'var w : Wrapper(int) = "hi"', tries to create a 'Wrapper(string)'
// proc Wrapper.init=(other: ?T) {
//   this.T = T;
//   this.x = other;
// }

// initialize a Wrapper from the desired wrapped type 'T'
proc Wrapper.init=(other: this.type.T) {
  this.T = other.type;
  this.x = other;

var A : Wrapper(int) = 4;
var B : Wrapper(string) = "hello";

Record Assignment

A variable of record type may be updated by assignment. The compiler provides a default assignment operator for each record type R having the signature:

operator =(ref lhs:R, rhs:R) : void where lhs.type == rhs.type;

In it, the value of each field of the record on the right-hand side is assigned to the corresponding field of the record on the left-hand side.

The compiler-provided assignment operator may be overridden as described in Assignment Statements.

The following example demonstrates record assignment.

Example (assignment.chpl).

record R {
  var i: int;
  var x: real;
  proc print() { writeln("i = ", this.i, ", x = ", this.x); }
var A: R;
A.i = 3;
A.print();        // "i = 3, x = 0.0"

var C: R;
A = C;
A.print();        // "i = 0, x = 0.0"

C.x = 3.14;
A.print();        // "i = 0, x = 0.0"

Prior to the first call to R.print, the record A is created and initialized to all zeroes. Then, its i field is set to 3. For the second call to R.print, the record C is created assigned to A. Since C is default-initialized to all zeroes, those zero values overwrite both values in A.

The next clause demonstrates that A and C are distinct entities, rather than two references to the same object. Assigning 3.14 to C.x does not affect the x field in A.

Default Comparison Operators

Default functions to overload comparison operators are defined for records if none are explicitly defined. == and != functions have the following signatures for a record R:

operator ==(lhs:R, rhs:R) : bool where lhs.type == rhs.type;
operator !=(lhs:R, rhs:R) : bool where lhs.type == rhs.type;

Other comparison operator overloads (namely <, <=, >, and >=) have similar signatures but their where clauses also check whether the relevant operator is supported by each field.

Record comparisons have a similar behavior to tuple comparisons. The operators >, >=, <, and <= check the corresponding lexicographical order based on pair-wise comparisons between the arguments’ fields. The operators == and != check whether the two arguments are pair-wise equal or not. The fields are compared in the order they are declared in the record definition.

Hashing a Record

For any record that does not have a user-defined == or != operator, the compiler will automatically define a default hash method for it. This allows values of that record type to be used as the indices of an associative domain, the elements of a set, or the keys of a map. The user can override this default hash method (or provide one in cases that the compiler does not) by defining their own method named hash on the record which takes no arguments and returns a uint or int.

Example (userhash.chpl).

record R {
  var i: uint;

  proc hash(): uint {
    writeln("In custom hash function");
    return i;

// Creating an associative domain with an 'idxType' of 'R'
// invokes R.hash() as part of its implementation

var D: domain(R);
var r = new R(42);
D += r;

Note that the compiler-generated hash can only be overridden for records that have been defined in user code. As an result, this feature cannot be used to override the default hash for built-in types like int.

Differences between Classes and Records

The key differences between records and classes are listed below.


Syntactically, class and record type declarations are identical, except that they begin with the class and record keywords, respectively. In contrast to classes, records do not support inheritance.

Storage Allocation

For a variable of record type, storage necessary to contain the data fields has a lifetime equivalent to the scope in which it is declared. No two record variables share the same data. It is not necessary to call new to create a record.

By contrast, a class variable contains only a reference to a class instance. A class instance is created through a call to its new operator. Storage for a class instance, including storage for the data associated with the fields in the class, is allocated and reclaimed separately from variables referencing that instance. The same class instance can be referenced by multiple class variables.


Assignment to a class variable is performed by reference, whereas assignment to a record is performed by value. When a variable of class type is assigned to another variable of class type, they both become names for the same object. In contrast, when a record variable is assigned to another record variable, then contents of the source record are copied into the target record field-by-field.

When a variable of class type is assigned to a record, matching fields (matched by name) are copied from the class instance into the corresponding record fields. Subsequent changes to the fields in the target record have no effect upon the class instance.

Assignment of a record to a class variable is not permitted.


Record arguments use the const ref intent by default - in contrast to class arguments which pass by const in intent by default.

Similarly, the this receiver argument is passed by const in by default for class methods. In contrast, it is passed by ref or const ref by default for record methods.

No nil Value

Records do not provide a counterpart of the nil value. A variable of record type is associated with storage throughout its lifetime, so nil has no meaning with respect to records.

The delete operator

Calling delete on a record is illegal.

Default Comparison Operators

For records, the compiler will supply default comparison operators if they are not supplied by the user. In contrast, the user cannot redefine == and != for classes. The default comparison operators for a record examine the arguments’ fields, while the comparison operators for classes check whether the l.h.s. and r.h.s. refer to the same class instance or are both nil.