Implementing Tuples in JavaScript

Feb 22, 2023

In JavaScript, a tuple is effectively an immutable array of primitives with known length. You can use a plain JavaScript array as a tuple to handle cases like returning multiple values as follows.

function getCoordinates() {
  const x = 1;
  const y = 2;
  const z = 3;

  return [x, y, z];

// Use array destructuring to get values from the "tuple"
const [x, y, z] = getCoordinates();

In TypeScript

TypeScript supports a tuple type: [number, number, number] is a tuple of 3 numbers. Attempting to access the 4th element of a tuple of length 3 throws a compiler error as follows.

function getCoordinates(): [number, number, number] {
  const x = 1;
  const y = 2;
  const z = 3;

  return [x, y, z];

// tuple.ts:10:17 - error TS2493: Tuple type '[number, number, number]' of length '3' has no element at index '3'.
const [w, x, y, z] = getCoordinates();

If you need a tuple type, TypeScript can help enforce tuple behavior at compile time.

Using Proxies in JavaScript

You can use proxies to enforce tuples at runtime. Just to recap, a tuple has 3 properties:

  1. Only stores primitives
  2. Has known length - accessing outside the bounds of the array throws an error
  3. Immutable - no writes allowed

Here's how you can implement a function that returns a tuple that satisfies the above constraints using proxies:

const arr = [1, 2, 3];

function Tuple(arr) {
  if (arr.find(el => !['string', 'number', 'bigint', 'boolean', 'undefined', 'symbol', 'null'].includes(typeof el))) {
    throw new Error('Tuple can only store primitives');
  return new Proxy(arr, {
    get(target, prop, receiver) {
      if (isNaN(prop)) {
        return undefined;
      prop = +prop;
      if (prop < 0 || prop >= arr.length) {
        throw new Error('Cannot access tuple index ' + prop);
      return arr[prop];
    set() {
      throw new Error('Cannot modify tuple');

const tuple = Tuple([1, 2, 3]);

tuple[4]; // Error: Cannot access tuple index 4
tuple.push(4); // TypeError: tuple.push is not a function

Unfortunately, there is no way to make two tuples === each other in JavaScript. Objects are always compared by reference in JavaScript.

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