Defining properties in JavaScript

9th February 2014 | by Adam Beres-Deak | javascript

JavaScript has always supported basic properties on objects. But the time is approaching when IE8 support is not relevant anymore, so we can use a more modern approach (ES5) for defining properties. There is one difference though to other programming languages - like C# - that we always define properties on objects and not on types.

Defining properties on objects with Object.defineProperty()

var obj = {};

Object.defineProperty(obj, "myProperty", {
    enumerable: false,
    configurable: false,
    writable: false,
    value: 13

The first two arguments are very obvious, but the third one is where all the magic happens. This argument is a property descriptor. Let's see what we can do with it.


This attribute simply tells whether the property should show up in enumerations like for ... in loops or in Object.keys().

Defaults to false.


This attribute sets whether the property can be reconfigured at a later point in the code or whether it can be deleted from the object.

Defaults to false.


This attribute sets whether a property is read-only or not.

Defaults to false except in Google Chrome.


The value of a property can be anything, any valid JavaScript value (Number, Date, Array, Function, etc.).

Defaults to undefined.

Defining getter and/or setter functions

It is also very easy to define getter and setter functions. Let's take a look at the example below:

var obj = {};
var propValue = 100;
Object.defineProperty(obj, "prop", {
    get: function(){ return propValue; },
    set: function(newValue){ propValue = newValue; },
    enumerable : true,
    configurable : true

Invalid cases

var obj = {};
Object.defineProperty(obj, 'undeletable', { value: 100, configurable: false });
console.log(obj.undeletable); // 100
delete obj.undeletable;
console.log(obj.undeletable); // 100

var obj = {};
Object.defineProperty(obj, 'notWorking', {
    value: 100,
    get: function() { return 300; }
// TypeError: Invalid property. A property cannot both have accessors and be writable or have a value, #<Object>

var obj = {};
Object.defineProperty(obj, 'notWorking', {
    get: function() { return 300; },
    writable: true
// TypeError: Invalid property. A property cannot both have accessors and be writable or have a value, #<Object>

Defining multiple properties on the same object

var obj = {};

Object.defineProperties(obj, {
    "hello": {
        value: "Hello",
        writable: true
    "world": {
        value: "World!",
        writable: false

Browser support

Good news, the Object.defineProperty() is supported in all modern browsers. The only problematic one is Internet Explorer 8, which only allows to define properties on DOM objects).


At the moment, using Object.defineProperty() is definitely slower than using basic properties like in the old days - but not that much. For more detailed performance tests take a look at


by Adam Beres-Deak

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