Zig Naming Conventions


Zig’s suggested naming conventions slightly deviate from what is common in other systems languages, which is mainly a side effect of Zig’s implementation of type generics and reflection at compile time. When those features are understood, the naming conventions in Zig become clear. This post steps through the Zig language reference and gives examples for each naming guideline in context to clarify the naming conventions.

Zig’s style guide in the language reference lists the following naming guidelines:

  • If x is a type then x should be TitleCase, unless it is a struct with 0 fields and is never meant to be instantiated, in which case it is considered to be a “namespace” and uses snake_case.
  • If x is callable, and x’s return type is type, then x should be TitleCase.
  • If x is otherwise callable, then x should be camelCase.
  • Otherwise, x should be snake_case.

Simply put, the naming convention used for an identifier depends on its type, which isn’t too different from other languages. Let’s take a look at these points to explore why this naming pattern makes sense for Zig.

Types and Namespaces

If x is a type then x should be TitleCase

The first part of this guideline is straightforward and similar conventions are found in languages like C, C++, Rust, and Java.1 Non-primitive types in Zig like struct, union, enum, and error should be written in title case.

const Point = struct {
    x: i32,
    y: i32,
};

const Color = enum {
    blue,
    red,
    green,
};

const Data = union {
    int: i64,
    boolean: bool,
};

const FileError = error {
    FileNotFound,
    AccessDenied,
};

Here Point, Color, Data, and FileError are types and are written in TitleCase. The style of field names depends on their types, with the exception of error names which are always TitleCase.

TitleCase names are also used for function parameters and variables that store types.

const print = @import("std").debug.print;

// returns the signedness of a integer type
fn isSigned(comptime T: type) bool {
    return @typeInfo(T).Int.signedness == .signed;
}

pub fn main() void {
    const SignedInt = i32;
    print("{}\n", .{isSigned(SignedInt)});
}

… unless it is a struct with 0 fields and is never meant to be instantiated, in which case it is considered to be a “namespace” and uses snake_case.

Zig’s @import() builtin function imports the public declarations from another file wrapped in a struct. Zig source files are implicitly structs with no fields. Because these structs have zero fields and cannot be instantiated, they are treated as namespaces and are written in snake case. Here is a two-file example.

other.zig
pub fn addOne(val: i32) i32 {
    return val + 1;
}

pub const value = 10;
main.zig
const print = @import("std").debug.print;
const other = @import("other.zig");

pub fn main() void {
    var sum = other.addOne(other.value);
    print("{}\n", .{sum});
}

A more detailed example of this is std.zig from the Zig standard library which exposes a hierarchy of namespace structs.

Functions and Types

If x is callable, and x’s return type is type, then x should be TitleCase. If x is otherwise callable, then x should be camelCase.

The naming for functions depends on the return type of the function. This is a side effect of Zig’s use of compile time evaluation of functions for generics. Most functions will be written in camelCase style, but any function that returns a type should be written in TitleCase. A good example of this are the many builtin functions available in Zig. Most builtin functions like @sin() or @clz() are camelCase because they return regular values, but a few are in title case because they return types. For example, @Type() reifies type info into a type and @TypeOf() returns the type of the given expressions.

Let’s explore this more with the Point struct example from earlier, but making the point generic instead.

const print = @import("std").debug.print;

// here both the function and parameter names are in title case because they
// refer to types
fn Point(comptime T: type) type {
    return struct {
        x: T,
        y: T,
    };
}

// these constants are also in title case because they are struct types
const IntPoint = Point(i32);
const FloatPoint = Point(f64);

pub fn main() void {
    const p = IntPoint{ .x = 10, .y = -12 };
    print("({}, {})\n", .{ p.x, p.y });
}

This is probably the greatest deviation from naming conventions in other languages, but it is consistent with Zig’s model of generics.

Other Identifiers

If no other guideline applies, everything else in Zig should use snake case. This applies to variables, fields, and even constants.

var a_variable: i64 = 1001;
const a_constant: bool = false;

So long as the identifier does not return or store a type, and is not callable, it should be in snake case.

Why?

Zig could get by fine using camelCase for all callables, and snake_case for variables and parameters. So why are these conventions beneficial? For me, it encodes additional information in the name of an identifier. When I see a function name in TitleCase I immediately know that function returns a type. A function that takes a type as a parameter, but is in camelCase indicates no type is returned.

Neither the Zig compiler nor zig fmt enforce these naming conventions. You are welcome to name identifiers however you like; however, the majority of Zig code does follow these guidelines and understanding why these conventions exist helps in understanding code.

The style guide mentions that exceptions are allowed:

These are general rules of thumb; if it makes sense to do something different, do what makes sense. For example, if there is an established convention such as ENOENT, follow the established convention.

See the Zig language reference for more examples of style conventions.


  1. C and C++ code often follows this TitleCase for types convention, but it is less standardized than in Java, Rust, or other languages. For example, struct in_addr in C, or C++’s string class are in snake case. ↩︎