Set a default parameter value for a JavaScript function – Dev

The best answers to the question “Set a default parameter value for a JavaScript function” in the category Dev.


I would like a JavaScript function to have optional arguments which I set a default on, which get used if the value isn’t defined (and ignored if the value is passed). In Ruby you can do it like this:

def read_file(file, delete_after = false)
  # code

Does this work in JavaScript?

function read_file(file, delete_after = false) {
  // Code


function read_file(file, delete_after) {
    delete_after = delete_after || "my default here";
    //rest of code

This assigns to delete_after the value of delete_after if it is not a falsey value otherwise it assigns the string "my default here". For more detail, check out Doug Crockford’s survey of the language and check out the section on Operators.

This approach does not work if you want to pass in a falsey value i.e. false, null, undefined, 0 or "". If you require falsey values to be passed in you would need to use the method in Tom Ritter’s answer.

When dealing with a number of parameters to a function, it is often useful to allow the consumer to pass the parameter arguments in an object and then merge these values with an object that contains the default values for the function

function read_file(values) {
    values = merge({ 
        delete_after : "my default here"
    }, values || {});

    // rest of code

// simple implementation based on $.extend() from jQuery
function merge() {
    var obj, name, copy,
        target = arguments[0] || {},
        i = 1,
        length = arguments.length;

    for (; i < length; i++) {
        if ((obj = arguments[i]) != null) {
            for (name in obj) {
                copy = obj[name];

                if (target === copy) {
                else if (copy !== undefined) {
                    target[name] = copy;

    return target;

to use

// will use the default delete_after value
read_file({ file: "my file" }); 

// will override default delete_after value
read_file({ file: "my file", delete_after: "my value" }); 


From ES6/ES2015, default parameters are in the language specification.

function read_file(file, delete_after = false) {
  // Code

just works.

Reference: Default Parameters – MDN

Default function parameters allow formal parameters to be initialized with default values if no value or undefined is passed.

You can also simulate default named parameters via destructuring:

// the `= {}` below lets you call the function without any parameters
function myFor({ start = 5, end = 1, step = -1 } = {}) { // (A)
    // Use the variables `start`, `end` and `step` here

Pre ES2015,

There are a lot of ways, but this is my preferred method — it lets you pass in anything you want, including false or null. (typeof null == "object")

function foo(a, b) {
  a = typeof a !== 'undefined' ? a : 42;
  b = typeof b !== 'undefined' ? b : 'default_b';


In ECMAScript 6 you will actually be able to write exactly what you have:

function read_file(file, delete_after = false) {
  // Code

This will set delete_after to false if it s not present or undefined. You can use ES6 features like this one today with transpilers such as Babel.

See the MDN article for more information.


I find something simple like this to be much more concise and readable personally.

function pick(arg, def) {
   return (typeof arg == 'undefined' ? def : arg);

function myFunc(x) {
  x = pick(x, 'my default');