scope = all the variables that are visible from a given location in your code


  • local variables (let and var)
  • function parameters
  • global variables
  • top-level functions

Scope is a One-Way Mirror

scope is a one-way mirror -- inner scopes can see out, but outer scopes cannot see in

one way mirror functions

Variable Visibility

let name = 'Alice';         // this name is global
    function beta() {
      let name = 'Bob';     // this name is local to beta
      console.log(name);    // prints "Bob"

console.log(name);          // prints "Alice"
    function alpha() {
      console.log(name);    // alpha can see global var
                            // prints "Alice"
      beta();               // alpha can see global function named beta


Another scope diagram

javascript scope diagram

What does this program print?

Scope Error

function gamma() {
    var x = "declared inside gamma";  // x can only be used in gamma
    console.log("Inside gamma");

console.log(x);  // Causes error

Closure Scope

JavaScript also supports lexical scope which means that variables defined above the current function may also be visible...

function sing() {
  let numberOfBottles = 99;

  function bottlesOfBeer() {       // << nested inside sing()
    return '' + numberOfBottles 
      + ' bottles of beer on the wall';

numberOfBottles is visible to both sing() and bottlesOfBeer()

Lexical Scope

Closures add a layer between global and local:

  • local variables and parameters of nesting closures of the current function

This is called "lexical scope" because a line of code can "see" all variables that are declared (= written = lexical) in the same code block, even if that code block is inside a different (nesting) function.

Nested Scopes

Every time you invoke a function, JS creates a new scope for that function

that points to the current scope

and so on recursively

Why Nested Scopes? 1

  • so callbacks can access local variables just like their neighboring code can

Why Nested Scopes? 2

  • nested functions, e.g.
function printGrid(grid) {

    function printRow(rowNum) {

    let i = 0;
    while (i<grid.length) {
        i = i + 1;

Why Nested Scopes? 3

  • higher-order functions (functions that use other functions, like map or forEach)
function countLetters(words) {
  let total = 0;
  words.forEach(function(word) {
    total += word.length;
  return total;

total is visible inside the inner function as well as the outer, so forEach can behave like other loops

Why Nested Scopes? 4

  • private state encapsulation with IIFE's (this is tricky; for more detail, see the encapsulation lesson)
let count = (function() {
    let value = 0;  // private variable
    let increment = function() {
        value = value + 1;
        return value;
    return increment;

count() // prints and returns 1
count() // prints and returns 2
count() // prints and returns 3