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Glossary of Symbols and Operators

A simple glossary containing Cadence's symbols and operators and their use (sorted in phonetical alphabetical order). Links to the relevant reference documentation are also provided.

Tip: CTRL/ + F and type in the symbol or operator you want to look up.

& (ampersand)

The & (ampersand) symbol has several uses.


The more Cadence-specific use is that of a Reference. In Cadence it is possible to create references to objects, i.e. resources or structures. A reference can be used to access fields and call functions on the referenced object.

References are created by using the & operator, followed by the object, the as keyword, and the type through which they should be accessed. The given type must be a supertype of the referenced object's type. More info

let a: String = "hello"
let refOfA: &String = &a as &String

References may also be authorized if the & symbol is preceded by auth (otherwise the reference is unauthorized)

Authorized references have the auth modifier, i.e. the full syntax is auth &T, whereas unauthorized references do not have a modifier. Lastly, references are ephemeral, i.e they cannot be stored. More info

let a: String = "hello"
let refOfA: &String = &a as auth &String

Logical Operator

It can be also used as a logical operator (AND), by appearing twice in succession (i.e. &&), similar to the double pipe symbol (||, which represents OR):

let a = true
let b = false

let c = a && b // false

@ (at)

The @ symbol before a type is used to annotate whether the type is a resource. Resources must therefore adhere to the resource-specific lifecycle in Cadence (create, destroy, move). More info.

The @ symbol must appear at the beginning of the type, not inside. For example, an array of NFTs is @[NFT] and not [@NFT]. This emphasizes the whole type acts like a resource.

// Declare a resource named `SomeResource`
pub resource SomeResource {
    pub var value: Int

    init(value: Int) {
        self.value = value

// we use the '@' symbol to reference a resource type
let a: @SomeResource <- create SomeResource(value: 0)

// also in functions declarations
pub fun use(resource: @SomeResource) {
    destroy resource

: (colon)

Type Declaration

If a colon follows a variable/constant/function declaration, it is used to declare its type.

let a: Bool = true // declares variable `a` with type `Bool`

// or

fun addOne(x: Int): Int { // return type of Int
    return x + 1

Ternary Operator

It can also be used in ternary operations to represent the "otherwise" section, such as the following:

let a = 1 > 2 ? 3 : 4
// should be read as: 
//   "is 1 greater than 2?"
//   "if YES, then set a = 3,
//   "if NO, then set a = 4.

= (equals)

Variable Declaration

let a = 1 // declares a variable `a` with value `1` 


a = 1  // assigns the value `1` to variable `a `

! (exclamation mark)

The exclamation mark has a different effect whether it precedes or succeeds a variable.

When it immediately precedes a boolean-type variable, it negates it.

let a: Bool = true
let b: Bool = !a

// b is false

When it immediately succeeds an optional variable, it force-unwraps it. Force-unwrapping returns the value inside an optional if it contains a value, or panics and aborts the execution if the optional has no value, i.e., the optional value is nil. More info

let a: Int? = nil
let b: Int? = 3

let c: Int = a! // panics, because = nil
let d: Int = b! // initialized correctly as 3

/ (forward slash)

The / (forward slash) symbol can be used in two ways: either as a division operator or as a path separator.

Division Operator

As a division operator let a = 1/2

let a: Fix64= 2.0
let b: Fix64= 3.0
let c = a / b // = 0.66666666

More info on division and Fixed point numbers in Cadence.

Path separator

In a Path, the forward slash separates domain (e.g. storage, private, public) and identifiers (much like in a traditional file store). More info

let storagePath = /storage/path
storagePath.toString()  // is "/storage/path"

More info on Paths

<- (lower than, hyphen) (Move operator)

The move operator <- replaces the assignment operator = in assignments that involve resources. To make assignment of resources explicit, the move operator <- must be used when:

  • The resource is the initial value of a constant or variable,
  • The resource is moved to a different variable in an assignment,
  • The resource is moved to a function as an argument
  • The resource is returned from a function.

This is because resources in Cadence are linear types meaning they can only exist in a single place at a time. So the move operator figuratively helps underline that that resource is being moved and will no longer be available in its previous location/state once it is moved.

More info

resource R {}

let a <- create R() // we instantiate a new resource and move it into a

Keep in mind that any time resources are involved, the move (or swap) operator must be used, including in Arrays and Dictionaries! More info

resource R {}

let a <- [
  <- create R(), // we create a new resource R and move it into the Array
  <- create R()  // another time

<-! (lower than, hyphen, exclamation mark) (Force-assignment move operator)

Assigns a resource value to an optional variable if the variable is nil (if it is not nil, it aborts)

This is only used for resources, as they use the move operator. More info

pub resource R {}

var a: @R? <- nil
a <-! create R()

<-> (lower than, hyphen, greater than) (Swap operator)

<-> is referred to as the Swap operator. It swaps values between the variables to the left and right of it. More info

let a = 1
let b = 2

a <-> b
// a = 2
// b = 1

+ (plus), - (minus), * (asterisk), % (percentage sign)

These are all typical arithmetic operators.

  • Addition: +
  • Subtraction: -
  • Multiplication: *
  • Remainder: %

More info

? (question mark)

The ? (question mark) symbol has several uses. If a ? follows a variable/constant, it represents an optional. An optional can either have a value or nothing at all.

// Declare a constant which has an optional integer type
let a: Int? = nil

When you see as?, that's a conditional downcasting operator. It can be used to downcast a value to a type. This operator returns an optional, and if the value has a type that is a subtype it will return the value as that type, otherwise it will return nil. More info

// a simple interface that expects a property count
resource interface HasCount {
  count : Int

// a Counter resource that conforms to HasCount
resource Counter: HasCount {
      pub var count: Int

    pub init(count: Int) {
        self.count = count

// set a reference countRef to &counter with the hasCount interface 
// this is important because ONLY methods in HasCount will be available!
let countRef: &{HasCount} = &counter as &{HasCount}

// BUT, we could also optionally downcast it to Counter
let authCountRef: auth &{HasCount} = &counter as auth &{HasCount}
let countRef2: &Counter = authCountRef as? &Counter

It is a big topic, so best to read the documentation on it

It can also be used in ternary operations to represent the "otherwise" section, such as the following:

let a = 1 > 2 ? 3 : 4
// should be read as: 
//   "is 1 greater than 2?"
//   "if YES, then set a = 3,
//   "if NO, then set a = 4.

It can also be used as a nil-coalescing operator. The nil-coalescing operator ?? returns the value inside an optional if it contains a value, or returns an alternative value if the optional has no value, i.e., the optional value is nil. The nil-coalescing operator can only be applied to values which have an optional type. More info

// Declare a constant which has an optional integer type
let a: Int? = nil

// Declare a constant with a non-optional integer type,
// which is initialized to `a` if it is non-nil, or 42 otherwise.
let b: Int = a ?? 42
// `b` is 42, as `a` is nil

// Invalid: nil-coalescing operator is applied to a value which has a non-optional type
// (the integer literal is of type `Int`).
let c = 1 ?? 2

_ (underscore)

The _ (underscore) symbol has several uses.

It can be used in variable names, or to split up numerical components.


let _a = true // used as a variable name 
let another_one = false

// or

let b = 100_000_000 // used to split up a number (supports all number types, e.g. 0b10_11_01)

It can also be used to omit the function argument label. Usually argument labels precede the parameter name. The special argument label _ indicates that a function call can omit the argument label. More info

// The special argument label _ is specified for the parameter,
// so no argument label has to be provided in a function call.

fun double(_ x: Int): Int {
    return x * 2