Module std::prim_char

1.0.0 · source ·
Expand description

A character type.

The char type represents a single character. More specifically, since ‘character’ isn’t a well-defined concept in Unicode, char is a ‘Unicode scalar value’.

This documentation describes a number of methods and trait implementations on the char type. For technical reasons, there is additional, separate documentation in the std::char module as well.


A char is a ‘Unicode scalar value’, which is any ‘Unicode code point’ other than a surrogate code point. This has a fixed numerical definition: code points are in the range 0 to 0x10FFFF, inclusive. Surrogate code points, used by UTF-16, are in the range 0xD800 to 0xDFFF.

No char may be constructed, whether as a literal or at runtime, that is not a Unicode scalar value:

// Each of these is a compiler error
['\u{D800}', '\u{DFFF}', '\u{110000}'];
// Panics; from_u32 returns None.
// Undefined behaviour
let _ = unsafe { char::from_u32_unchecked(0x110000) };

USVs are also the exact set of values that may be encoded in UTF-8. Because char values are USVs and str values are valid UTF-8, it is safe to store any char in a str or read any character from a str as a char.

The gap in valid char values is understood by the compiler, so in the below example the two ranges are understood to cover the whole range of possible char values and there is no error for a non-exhaustive match.

let c: char = 'a';
match c {
    '\0' ..= '\u{D7FF}' => false,
    '\u{E000}' ..= '\u{10FFFF}' => true,

All USVs are valid char values, but not all of them represent a real character. Many USVs are not currently assigned to a character, but may be in the future (“reserved”); some will never be a character (“noncharacters”); and some may be given different meanings by different users (“private use”).


char is always four bytes in size. This is a different representation than a given character would have as part of a String. For example:

let v = vec!['h', 'e', 'l', 'l', 'o'];

// five elements times four bytes for each element
assert_eq!(20, v.len() * std::mem::size_of::<char>());

let s = String::from("hello");

// five elements times one byte per element
assert_eq!(5, s.len() * std::mem::size_of::<u8>());

As always, remember that a human intuition for ‘character’ might not map to Unicode’s definitions. For example, despite looking similar, the ‘é’ character is one Unicode code point while ‘é’ is two Unicode code points:

let mut chars = "é".chars();
// U+00e9: 'latin small letter e with acute'

let mut chars = "é".chars();
// U+0065: 'latin small letter e'
// U+0301: 'combining acute accent'

This means that the contents of the first string above will fit into a char while the contents of the second string will not. Trying to create a char literal with the contents of the second string gives an error:

error: character literal may only contain one codepoint: 'é'
let c = 'é';

Another implication of the 4-byte fixed size of a char is that per-char processing can end up using a lot more memory:

let s = String::from("love: ❤️");
let v: Vec<char> = s.chars().collect();

assert_eq!(12, std::mem::size_of_val(&s[..]));
assert_eq!(32, std::mem::size_of_val(&v[..]));