Cover by Huw Collingbourne

Safari, the world’s most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

Find the exact information you need to solve a problem on the fly, or go deeper to master the technologies and skills you need to succeed

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

O'Reilly logo

Chapter 11. Symbols

image with no caption

Many newcomers to Ruby are confused by symbols. A symbol is an identifier whose first character is a colon (:), so :this is a symbol and so is :that. Symbols are, in fact, not at all complicated—and, in certain circumstances, they may be extremely useful, as you will see shortly.

Let’s first be clear about what a symbol is not: It is not a string, it is not a constant, and it is not a variable. A symbol is, quite simply, an identifier with no intrinsic meaning other than its own name. Whereas you might assign a value to a variable like this . . .

name = "Fred"

you would not assign a value to a symbol:

:name = "Fred"    # Error!

The value ...

Find the exact information you need to solve a problem on the fly, or go deeper to master the technologies and skills you need to succeed

Start Free Trial

No credit card required