Ways to create a Set in JavaScript?

In Eloquent JavaScript, Chapter 4, a set of values is created by creating an object and storing the values as property names, assigning arbitrary values (e.g. true) as property values. To check if the value is already contained in the set, the in operator is used:

var set = {};

if (!'Tom' in set) { 
  set.Tom = true;

Is this idiomatic JavaScript? Wouldn't be using an array even better?

var set = [];

if (!'Tom' in set) { 
  set.push = 'Tom';



Sets are now available in ES2015 (aka ES6, i.e. ECMAScript 6). ES6 has been the current standard for JavaScript since June 2015.

ECMAScript 6 has the data structure Set which works for arbitrary values, is fast and handles NaN correctly. -Axel Rauschmayer, Exploring ES6

First two examples from Axel Rauschmayer's book Exploring ES6:

Managing single elements:

> let set = new Set();
> set.add('red')

> set.has('red')
> set.delete('red')
> set.has('red')

Determining the size of a Set and clearing it:

> let set = new Set();
> set.add('red')
> set.add('green')

> set.size
> set.clear();
> set.size

I would check out Exploring ES6 if you want to learn more about Sets in JavaScript. The book is free to read online, but if you would like to support the author Dr. Axel Rauschmayer you can purchase the book for around $30.

If you want to use Sets and ES6 now you can use Babel, the ES6 to ES5 transpiler, and its polyfills.

Edit: As of June 6th, 2017 most of the major browsers have full Set support in their latest versions (except IE 11). This means you may not need babel if you don't care to support older browsers. If you want to see compatibility in different browsers including your current browser check Kangax's ES6 compatibility table.


Just clarification on initialization. Sets can take any synchronous iterable in their constructor. This means they can take not just arrays but also strings, and iterators. Take for example the following array and string initialization of a set:

const set1 = new Set(['a','a','b','b','c','c']);
const set2 = new Set("aabbcc");

Both outputs of the array and string are the same. Note that ...set1 is the spread syntax. It appears that each element of the iterable is added one by one to the set, so since both the array and string have the same elements and since the elements are in the same order the set is created the same. Another thing to note about sets is when iterating over them the iteration order follows the order that the elements were inserted into the set. Here's an example of iterating over a set:

const set1 = new Set(['a','a','b','b','c','c']);
for(const element of set1) {

Since you can use any iterable to initialize a set you could even use a iterator from a generator function. Here is two such examples of iterator initializations that produce the same output:

// a simple generator example
function* getLetters1 () {
  yield 'a';
  yield 'a';
  yield 'b';
  yield 'b';
  yield 'c';
  yield 'c';

// a somewhat more commonplace generator example
// with the same output as getLetters1.
function* getLetters2 (letters, repeatTimes) {
  for(const letter of letters) {
    for(let i = 0; i < repeatTimes; ++i) { 
      yield letter;

console.log("------ getLetters1 ------");
const set3 = new Set(getLetters1());

console.log("------ getLetters2 ------");
console.log(...getLetters2('abc', 2));
const set4 = new Set(getLetters2('abc', 2));

These examples' generator functions could just be written to not repeat, but if the generator function is more complicated and as long as the following doesn't impact performance too negatively you could use the Set method to help get only values from a generator that don't repeat.

If you want to know more about sets without reading Dr. Rauschmayer's chapter of his book you can check out the MDN docs on Set. MDN also has more examples of iterating over a set such as using forEach and using the .keys, .values, and .entries methods. MDN also has examples such as set union, set intersection, set difference, symmetric set difference, and set superset checking. Hopefully most of those operations will become available in JavaScript without needing to build your own functions supporting them. In fact, there is this TC39 proposal for new Set methods which should hopefully add the following methods to Set in JavaScript at some future point in time if the proposal reaches stage 4:

  • Set.prototype.intersection(iterable) - method creates new Set instance by set intersection operation.
  • Set.prototype.union(iterable) - method creates new Set instance by set union operation.
  • Set.prototype.difference(iterable) - method creates new Set without elements present in iterable.
  • Set.prototype.symmetricDifference(iterable) - returns Set of elements found only in either this or in iterable.
  • Set.prototype.isSubsetOf(iterable)
  • Set.prototype.isDisjointFrom(iterable)
  • Set.prototype.isSupersetOf(iterable)

I use dict objects as sets. This works with strings and numbers, but I suppose would cause problems if you wanted to have a set of objects using custom equality and comparison operators:

Creating a set:

var example_set = 

Testing for inclusion in a set

if( example_set['a'] ){
    alert('"a" is in set');

Adding an element to a set

example_set['d'] = true;

Removing an element from a set

delete example_set['a'];


Sets do not allow duplicate entries and don't typically guarantee predefined ordering. Arrays do both of these, thus violating what it means to be a set (unless you do additional checks).


The first way is idiomatic JavaScript.

Any time you want to store a key/value pair, you must use a JavaScript object. As for arrays, there are several problems:

  1. The index is a numerical value.

  2. No easy way to check to see if a value is in an array without looping through.

  3. A set doesn't allow duplicates. An array does.


If you want to create a set from an array, simply do:

let arr = [1, 1, 2, 1, 3];
let mySet = new Set(arr); // Set { 1, 2, 3 }

This is a sugar syntax that I quite fancied when programming in Python, so glad that ES6 finally made it possible to do the same thing.

NOTE: then I realize what I said didn't directly answer your question. The reason you have this "hack" in ES5 is because lookup time in an object by keys is significantly faster (O(1)) than in an array (O(n)). In performance critical applications, you can sacrifice this bit of readability or intuition for better performance.

But hey, welcome to 2017, where you can use proper Set in all major modern browsers now!


Sets in ES6/ES2015:

ES6/ES2015 now has built in sets. A set is data structure which allows storage of unique values of any type, whether this are primitive values or object references. A set can be declared using the ES6 built in set constructor in the following manner:

const set = new Set([1, 2, 3, 4, 5]);

When creating a set using the Set constructor our newly created set object inherits from the Set.prototype. This has all sorts of auxiliary methods and properties. This allows you to easily do the following things:


const set = new Set([1, 2, 3, 4, 5]);

// checkout the size of the set
console.log('size is: ' + set.size);

// has method returns a boolean, true if the item is in the set

// add a number

// delete a number

// iterate over each element using a callback
set.forEach((el) => {

// remove all the entries from the set

Browser compatibility:

All major browser now fully support sets except IE where some features are missing. For exact reference please refer to the mdn docs.


There are two problems with using bare javascript objects to emulate sets: first, an object can have an inherited property which would screw the "in" operator and second, you can only store scalar values in this way, making a set of objects is not possible. Therefore, a realistic implementation of Sets should provide methods add and contains instead of plain in and property assignments.


You can try Buckets, is a javascript data structure library and has everything you need to manipulate sets.


Basic creation and usage of Set object ????

let mySet = new Set()

mySet.add(2)         // Set {2}
mySet.add(7)         // Set {2, 7}
mySet.add(7)         // Set {2, 7}
mySet.add('my text') // Set {2, 7, 'my text'}
let myObj = { a: 1, b: 2 }
mySet.add(myObj)     // Set {2, 7, 'my text', {...}}
mySet.has(2)         // true
mySet.has(myObj)     // true
mySet.size           // 4


for (let item of mySet) console.log(item)  // 2, 7, 'my text', {a:1, b:2}
mySet.forEach(value => console.log(value)) // 2, 7, 'my text', {a:1, b:2}

Convert to array

var myArr = Array.from(mySet)             // [2, 7, 'my text', {a:1, b:2}]

? The most distinct feature Set offers is every value in Set object must be unique. So you can not add duplicate values.


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