Demystifying JavaScript Prototypes: Unveiling the Core of Object-Oriented Magic

Demystifying JavaScript Prototypes Unveiling the Core of Object-Oriented Magic


JavaScript Prototypes: The prototype-based inheritance model is a key concept in JavaScript. In this comprehensive guide, we will unpack prototypes in JavaScript through insightful examples and use cases.

What are Prototypes in JavaScript?

Every JavaScript object has a hidden [[Prototype]] property that points to its prototype object. When trying to access a property on an object:

  1. The object itself is searched first
  2. If not found, the search delegates to the object’s prototype
  3. This repeats up the prototype chain

So the prototype acts as a fallback for properties, similar to classical inheritance.

The prototype Property

The prototype property allows accessing the prototype of a constructor function.

For example:

function Person(name) { = name; 

console.log(Person.prototype); // Person {}

New objects created with new Person('John') will have Person.prototype as their [[Prototype]].

Setting and Accessing Prototype Methods

We can add methods to the prototype:

Person.prototype.sayName = function() {
  console.log(`My name is ${}`);

let person = new Person('John');
person.sayName(); // My name is John

When sayName() is called, it first looks on the person object, doesn’t find it, and gets it from Person.prototype.

The __proto__ Property

While [[Prototype]] is hidden, __proto__ exposes access to an object’s prototype:

const person = new Person('John');

console.log(person.__proto__ === Person.prototype); // true

This shows person derives from Person.prototype.

Prototype Chain

JavaScript objects have a prototype chain for delegation:

          /     |
Object.prototype  Person.prototype
         |        |
       Person     person

The chain walks up with person -> Person.prototype -> Object.prototype -> null.

Overriding Inherited Methods

Methods can be overridden by redefining them lower on the prototype chain:

Person.prototype.sayName = function() {
  console.log('Person name'); 

let john = new Person('John');
john.sayName(); // Person name

john.sayName = function() {

john.sayName(); // John

john overrides the prototype method with its own.

Native Object Prototypes

Built-in objects also work using the prototype model:

const arr = []; 
arr.__proto__ === Array.prototype; // true

arr.push(1); // Defined on Array.prototype

This is how array methods like push() are delegated to Array.prototype.

Best Uses of JavaScript Prototypes

  • Code reuse – Define methods once on the prototype instead of on each object.
  • Simulation of classes – Prototype model allows “classes” with constructor functions and shared methods.
  • Polyfills – Add new methods to existing prototypes like Array or String.

Prototypes enable extending JavaScript objects in a flexible way.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What does the prototype property on constructor functions do?

A: The prototype property allows accessing and modifying the prototype object that will be assigned to objects created with the constructor.

Q: How does JavaScript look up properties through the prototype chain?

A: When accessing a property on an object, JavaScript will first look on the object itself. If not found, it will delegate up the [[Prototype]] chain of the object recursively.

Q: How are native objects like Array connected to their prototypes?

A: Native constructor functions like Array have a prototype property that points to the standard built-in Array.prototype object. New arrays inherit from Array.prototype per the chain.

Q: What is the best way to define methods that can be shared by objects?

A: Defining methods on a constructor function’s prototype property allows all instances to inherit and share the methods.

Q: How can prototypes simulate classes in JavaScript?

A: Constructor functions can simulate classes with prototypes defining shared methods. ‘Subclassing’ can be done by inheriting from other object prototypes.

Q: Can prototypes be used to extend native built-in objects?

A: Yes, prototypes allow adding new methods to native objects like Array.prototype for extension. But this should be done carefully.

Q: What is the difference between proto and prototype in JavaScript?

A: proto exposes the actual prototype of an object instance while prototype sets the prototype on constructor functions for inheritance.

Q: Are there any downsides to prototypal inheritance in JavaScript?

A: Prototypal inheritance can be less intuitive than classes. Method lookups in the prototype chain have minor performance cost as well.

Q: What is the right way to override an inherited prototype method?

A: Define a method with the same name on the object instance itself. This overrides the prototype chain for that method.

Q: How does the new operator interact with prototypes when constructing objects?

A: The new operator creates a new object, sets its [[Prototype]] to the constructor’s prototype property, and runs the constructor function on it.


JavaScript uses a prototype-based model for inheritance instead of classes. Objects delegate to their prototype recursively for property lookups. Constructor functions provide the inherited prototype via the ‘prototype’ property. We can add shared methods on prototypes for code reuse and override them by defining them directly on objects. Understanding prototypes is key to leveraging object-oriented programming and delegation in JavaScript. This article provided concrete examples demystifying core prototype concepts like the prototype chain, inheritance, overriding, and use cases for building extensible objects. With practice, prototypes become intuitive for object abstractions in JavaScript.

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