Currently, it is possible to inspect virtually any aspect of running code, except there is no easy way to inspect the locally executing scope. For example, a developer can get the class of an object with get_class() or the name with MyClass::class or $myClass::class. A developer can get the name of a parameter or property via reflection, however, when a developer needs to write a simple error message, that may be overkill, thus the variable name is usually hard-coded into the error message. This usually works fine until a developer refactors the code and forgets to change the name of the variable in the error message.

nameof() allows developers to quickly and easily access the name of a variable in the current scope, in a way that keeps error messages consistent.

This RFC proposes a global nameof() function that allows a developer to get the name of virtually any user-named variable, property, const, or member, quickly and easily:

echo nameof($variable); // variable
echo nameof($object->property); // property
echo nameof(Enum::Case); // Case
echo nameof(Object::Const); // Const
echo nameof(myFunction(...)); // myFunction
echo nameof(MY_CONSTANT); // MY_CONSTANT

As named parameters become more prevalent, providing the end user with the name of the parameter is more important, in a way that it is easy to locate when refactoring, especially as part of a deprecation strategy:

function myAwesomeFunc(mixed $param1 = null, int $param2 = 0) {
  // potentially many lines later...
  if(is_called_with_deprecated_value($oldParam)) {
    $logger->warn(nameof($oldParam) . ' is deprecated in the next version, please use ' . nameof($newParam);

Further, using nameof() would allow simpler usage of attributes, by using the silence operator (see error checking):

// evaluates to #[EventHandler(callback: 'handler')]
#[EventHandler(callback: @nameof(Operator::handler))]
class Operator {
  public function handler() {
    // implementation

It's important to note that some things have an ambiguous name that is a compile error:

echo nameof($a[$b]); // is it a or b? (can call nameof($a) or nameof($b) instead)
echo nameof($a === $b); // ??
echo nameof($a($b)); // same as array access
echo nameof($$a); // ask for $a or use the value of $a

All of these will generate a compile error: “Cannot get the name of an ambiguous expression.”


The nameof() function is not necessarily a function in the traditional sense and can be used anywhere a string literal can be used (such as to define static constants, array keys, and attributes). This means that there is an 'identity' for every valid nameof():

${nameof($variable)} === $variable;
$object->{nameof($object->property)} === $object->property;
constant(Enum::class . '::' . nameof(Enum::Case)) === Enum::Case;
constant(Object::class . '::' . nameof(Object::Const)) === Object::Const;
(nameof(myFunction(...))() === myFunction();
constant(nameof(MY_CONSTANT)) === MY_CONSTANT;

There are a limited number of expressions that can resolve to a name using nameof():

  • variables (but not variable-variables): nameof($var) resolves to 'var'
  • properties: nameof($this->prop), nameof($a?->prop) resolves to 'prop'
  • first-class callables: nameof(strlen(...)) resolves to 'strlen'
  • static properties and constants: nameof(A::Prop) resolves to 'Prop'
  • constants: nameof(MY_CONST) resolves to 'MY_CONST'

When getting the name of constants and functions, the name will NOT be the full name, but the lexical name. This means that if the name is use'd, it will be that name. However, if the full name is used in the nameof(), the full name is returned. It's probably easiest to show this with an example:

namespace Name {
    const MY_CONST = true;
    function namedFunction() {}
namespace Other {
    echo nameof(\Name\MY_CONST); // \Name\MY_CONST
    echo nameof(\Name\namedFunction(...)); // \Name\namedFunction
namespace Using {
    use const Name\MY_CONST as ;
    use const Name\MY_CONST as ALIASED_CONST;
    use function Name\namedFunction;
    echo nameof(MY_CONST); // MY_CONST
    echo nameof(\Name\MY_CONST); // \Name\MY_CONST
    echo nameof(ALIASED_CONST); // ALIASED_CONST
    echo nameof(namedFunction(...)); // namedFunction
    echo nameof(\Name\namedFunction(...)); // \Name\namedFunction(...)

In other language implementations (such as C#), a full name usually isn't returned even if you pass one in. However, a 'full name' is rarely required and can often be constructed from parts, if required. However, as a convenience, in this implementation, if a 'full name' is requested entered, a full name is returned. This allows for the 'least surprises' since what you put in is what you get out.

Additionally, consider traits and aliasing:

trait A {
  public function example() {}
trait B {
  public function example() {}
class C {
  use A, B {
    A::example insteadof B;
    B::example as exampleB;
$a = new C();
echo nameof($a->exampleB(...)); // outputs: "exampleB"

In the example above, if we were to return the 'full name' of $a->exampleB(...) it would actually be 'B::example' but that isn't helpful in the context of class C. By returning the lexical name, the developer gets the response they expect.

Error Handling

There are several ways to handle errors, each one has its own merits but ultimately will be left up as a secondary vote. It may not provide the best solution, but the author doesn't have a personal preference:

1. No error handling

In this case, there is no error handling. This would allow using nameof on things that don't exist. For example, no error would be output if a developer references a static property on an instanced property:

class MyClass {
  public string $var;
nameof(MyClass::var); // no error, returns 'var'
nameof($aVariable); // no error, returns 'aVariable'

The downside is that PHP won't natively inform a developer that they've used something that doesn't exist. The main benefit of this approach is that it would allow the community to come up with its own rules via static analysis tools.

2. Warnings

In this case, PHP would output a warning: “nameof(<name>): does not exist.” where <name> is the name the developer passed.

Using a class name (or any other method that would normally trigger autoloading) that does not exist, will trigger autoloading and attempt to locate the class. If it is not found, a warning will be issued. If a variable does not exist in the current scope, a warning will be issued. If the referenced property/method/const cannot be located, a warning will be issued. If a function or constant cannot be located in the current scope, a warning will be issued.

Warnings can be disabled via the 'silence operator' (@) to behave just like the first case. This is the best of both worlds, allowing developers to 'break the rules' to specify properties/functions without a reference to the object (@nameof(Object::method(...)) vs. nameof($object->method)) but would require assistance via static analysis tooling to catch mistakes.

3. Exceptions

An exception model was considered, however, the author believes that it would break the concept of “using nameof wherever a string could be used”. For example, if a name cannot be located, an exception would be thrown. This would be true in the case of simply defining an attribute with a non-existent name:

#[EventHandler(handler: nameof(I_DO_NOT_EXIST))]

which is probably undesirable and nearly impossible to handle in a graceful way.

Backward Incompatible Changes

There are no backward incompatible changes at this time except that `nameof` will become a reserved word.

Future Scope

This could be expanded in the future to allow classes and types. For example, nameof(int) or nameof(MyClass) but can already be supported via the silence operator.

Proposed PHP Version(s)

  • 8.3: release
  • 8.2.x: nameof becomes a reserved word, emitting a notice

RFC Impact


Should be none

To Existing Extensions

Will existing extensions be affected? No

To Opcache

Depends on error type vote.

First case: compiled to a string literal.

Second and third case: a new AST node (similar to isset) will need to be handled.

New Constants


Open Issues

- Should first-class callables be allowed? It's relatively easy to get the name of a first-class callable and only included for completeness.

Unaffected PHP Functionality

PHP will largely be unaffected by this change, except that a new global function is introduced.

Future Scope


Proposed Voting Choices

This is a simple yes-or-no vote to include this feature. 2/3 majority required to pass.

There is a subvote for the type of error checking to include. Majority wins.

Patches and Tests


After the project is implemented, this section should contain

  1. the version(s) it was merged into
  2. a link to the git commit(s)
  3. a link to the PHP manual entry for the feature
  4. a link to the language specification section (if any)


Links to external references, discussions or RFCs

Rejected Features

Keep this updated with features that were discussed on the mail lists.

rfc/nameof.txt · Last modified: 2023/05/13 20:15 by withinboredom