Is array both associative and indexed?

Can an array in JavaScript be associative AND indexed?

I'd like to be able to lookup an item in the array by its position or a key value.



There are no such things as associative arrays in Javascript. You can use object literals, which look like associative arrays, but they have unordered properties. Regular Javascript arrays are based on integer indexes, and can't be associative.

For example, with this object:

var params = {
    foo: 1,
    bar: 0,
    other: 2

You can access properties from the object, for example:


And you can also iterate over the object using the statement:

for(var v in params) {
    //v is equal to the currently iterated property

However, there is no strict rule on the order of property iteration - two iterations of your object literal could return the properties in different orders.


After reading the Wikipedia definition of associative array, I'm going to break with traditional JavaScript lore and say, "yes, JavaScript does have associative arrays." With JavaScript arrays, you can add, reassign, remove, and lookup values by their keys (and the keys can be quoted strings), which is what Wikipedia says associative arrays should be able to do.

However, you seem to be asking something different--whether you can look up the same value by either index or key. That's not a requirement of associative arrays (see the Wikipedia article.) Associative arrays don't have to give you the ability to get a value by index.

JavaScript arrays are very closely akin to JavaScript objects.


Yes, that's an array, and yes, you can get away with non-numeric indices. (If you're curious, after all this, arr.length is 3.)

In most cases, I think you should stick to numeric indices when you use arrays. That what most programmers expect, I think.

The link is to my blog post about the subject.


Native JS objects only accept strings as property names, which is true even for numeric array indices; arrays differ from vanilla objects only insofar as most JS implementations will store numerically indexed properties differently (ie in an actual array as long as they are dense) and setting them will trigger additional operations (eg adjustment of the length property).

If you're looking for a map which accepts arbitrary keys, you'll have to use a non-native implementation. The script is intended for fast iteration and not random-access by numeric indices, so it might nor be what you're looking for.

A barebones implementation of a map which would do what you're asking for could look like this:

function Map() {
    this.length = 0; = {};

Map.prototype.get = function(key) {
    return ?[key] : undefined;

Map.prototype.put = function(key, value, index) {
    if(arguments.length < 3) {
        if( {
  [key].value = value;
            return this;

        index = this.length;
    else if(index >>> 0 !== index || index >= 0xffffffff)
        throw new Error('illegal index argument');

    if(index >= this.length)
        this.length = index + 1;

    this[index] =[key] =
        { index : index, key : key, value : value };

    return this;

The index argument of put() is optional.

You can access the values in a map map either by key or index via


The order in which objects appear in an associative javascript array is not defined, and will differ across different implementations. For that reason you can't really count on a given associative key to always be at the same index.


as Perspx points out, there aren't really true associative arrays in javascript. The statement foo["bar"] is just syntactic sugar for

If you trust the browser to maintain the order of elements in an object, you could write a function

function valueForIndex(obj, index) {

    var i = 0;
    for (var key in obj) {

        if (i++ == index)
            return obj[key];
var stuff = [];
stuff[0] = "foo"; = stuff[0]; // can be stuff["bar"] if you prefer
var key = "bar";
alert(stuff[0] + ", " + stuff[key]); // shows "foo, foo"

I came here to wanting to know if this is bad practice or not, and instead found a lot of people appearing not to understand the question.

I wanted to have a data structure that was ordered but could be indexed by key, so that it wouldn't require iteration for every lookup.

In practical terms this is quite simple, but I still haven't read anything on whether it's a terrible practice or not.

var roygbiv = [];
var colour = { key : "red", hex : "#FF0000" };
roygbiv[colour.key] = colour;
console.log("Hex colours of the rainbow in order:");
for (var i = 0; i < roygbiv.length; i++) {
    console.log(roygbiv[i].key + " is " + roygbiv[i].hex);

// input = "red";
console.log("Hex code of input colour:");

The important thing is to never change the value of array[index] or array[key] directly once the object is set up or the values will no longer match. If the array contains objects you can change the properties of those objects and you will be able to access the changed properties by either method.


Although I agree with the answers given you can actually accomplish what you are saying with getters and setters. For example:

var a = [1];
//This makes a["blah"] refer to a[0]
a.__defineGetter__("blah", function(){return this[0]});
//This makes a["blah"] = 5 actually store 5 into a[0]
a.__defineSetter__("blah", function(val){ this[0] = val});

alert(a["blah"]); // emits 1
a["blah"] = 5;
alert(a[0]); // emits 5

Is this what you are looking for? i think theres a different more modern way to do getters and setters but cant remember.


The tide has changed on this one. Now you can do that... and MORE! Using Harmony Proxies you could definitely solve this problem in many ways.

You'll have to verify that your targeted environments support this with maybe a little help from the harmony-reflect shim.

There's a really good example on the Mozilla Developer Network on using a Proxy to find an array item object by it's property which pretty much sums it up.

Here's my version:

  var players = new Proxy(
    name: 'monkey',
    score: 50
  }, {
    name: 'giraffe',
    score: 100
  }, {
    name: 'pelican',
    score: 150
  }], {
    get: function(obj, prop) {
      if (prop in obj) {
        // default behavior
        return obj[prop];
      if (typeof prop == 'string') {

        if (prop == 'rank') {
          return obj.sort(function(a, b) {
            return a.score > b.score ? -1 : 1;

        if (prop == 'revrank') {
          return obj.sort(function(a, b) {
            return a.score < b.score ? -1 : 1;

        var winner;
        var score = 0;
        for (var i = 0; i < obj.length; i++) {
          var player = obj[i];
          if ( == prop) {
            return player;
          } else if (player.score > score) {
            score = player.score;
            winner = player;

        if (prop == 'winner') {
          return winner;


  console.log(players[0]); // { name: 'monkey', score: 50 }
  console.log(players['monkey']); // { name: 'monkey', score: 50 }
  console.log(players['zebra']); // undefined
  console.log(players.rank); // [ { name: 'pelican', score: 150 },{ name: 'giraffe', score: 100 }, { name: 'monkey', score: 50 } ]
  console.log(players.revrank); // [ { name: 'monkey', score: 50 },{ name: 'giraffe', score: 100 },{ name: 'pelican', score: 150 } ]
  console.log(players.winner); // { name: 'pelican', score: 150 }


test = new Array();
test[0] = 'yellow';
test['banana'] = 0;
var myArray = Array();
myArray["first"] = "Object1";
myArray["second"] = "Object2";
myArray["third"] = "Object3";

Object.keys(myArray);              // returns ["first", "second", "third"]
Object.keys(myArray).length;       // returns 3

if you want the first element then you can use it like so:

myArray[Object.keys(myArray)[0]];  // returns "Object1"


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