Meaning of VARIABLE in English

VARIABLE

< programming > A named memory location in which a program can store intermediate results and from which it can read it them. Each programming language has different rules about how variables can be named, typed, and used. Typically, a value is "assigned" to a variable in an assignment statement. The value is obtained by evaluating an expression and then stored in the variable. For example, the assignment

x = y + 1

means "add one to y and store the result in x". This may look like a mathematical equation but the mathematical equality is only true in the program until the value of x or y changes. Furthermore, statements like

x = x + 1

are common. This means "add one to x", which only makes sense as a state changing operation, not as a mathematical equality.

The simplest form of variable corresponds to a single- word of memory or a CPU register and an assignment to a load or store machine code operation.

A variable is usually defined to have a type , which never changes, and which defines the set of values the variable can hold. A type may specify a single ("atomic") value or a collection ("aggregate") of values of the same or different types. A common aggregate type is the array - a set of values, one of which can be selected by supplying a numerical index .

Languages may be untyped , weakly typed , strongly typed , or some combination. Object-oriented programming languages extend this to object types or classes .

A variable's scope is the region of the program source within which it represents a certain thing. Scoping rules are also highly language dependent but most serious languages support both local and global variables.

In a functional programming language, a variable's value never changes and change of state is handled as recursion over lists of values.

(2003-12-23)

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