Type Aliases

In addition to declaring variables using var and constants using const and param, Chapel supports the declaration of type aliases using the type keyword. These type aliases are used to create new names for existing types—in particular, they do not create new [sub]types.

As an example of a simple type alias, consider the following statement:

type age = uint(8);

This declaration says to create a type alias named age which is equivalent to the uint(8) type. Imagine that we’ll use this type to store peoples’ ages, since they tend not to live more than 256 years. We can then use this alias like any other type. For example, the following statements use it to declare some variables and to declare the formal type of a procedure argument:

var mgAge: age = 10,
    votingAge: age = 18;

proc birthday(ref a: age) {
  a += 1;


Type aliases like age are useful for:

  • creating self-documenting code: Using a type alias like age provides more information about a variable than directly using the uint(8) type would.

  • minimizing the number of code changes required to represent a certain class of values: If we decided that we wanted to represent other plants and animals in addition to people, we’d probably want to redefine age to be a larger integer size in order to store the ages of long-lived organisms like giant redwoods. It’s easier to do this by changing a single type alias’s definition than by finding all references to uint(8) and determining whether or not they represent ages.

  • providing a shorthand for a longer type name: Typing age saves keystrokes as compared to typing uint(8).

Like the other declaration forms we’ve seen so far, the type keyword can be used to declare multiple aliases by comma-separating them. For example, the following statement creates float and double as aliases to Chapel’s real(32) and real(64) types:

type float = real(32),
     double = real(64);

Type aliases can be used not just for simple scalar types like integers and floating point values, but for any Chapel type expression. Though we haven’t introduced more complex types yet, the following statements create aliases corresponding to a 3-tuple and 100-element array of real:

type vec = 3*real,
     bigvec = [1..100] real;