JavaScript Identifiers & Identifier Names


With regards to reserved words there is a small distinctions between the "Identifiers" used for the likes of variable or function names and the "Identifier Names" allowed as properties of composite data types.

For example the following will result in an illegal syntax error:

var break = true;

Uncaught SyntaxError: Unexpected token break

However the name is deemed valid as a property of an object (as of ECMAScript 5+):

var obj = {
    break: true

To quote from this answer:

From the ECMAScript® 5.1 Language Specification:

Section 7.6

Identifier Names are tokens that are interpreted according to the grammar given in the “Identifiers” section of chapter 5 of the Unicode standard, with some small modifications. An Identifier is an IdentifierName that is not a ReservedWord (see 7.6.1).


Identifier ::
  IdentifierName but not ReservedWord

By specification, a ReservedWord is:

Section 7.6.1

A reserved word is an IdentifierName that cannot be used as an Identifier.

ReservedWord :: 

This includes keywords, future keywords, null, and boolean literals. The full list of keywords are in Sections 7.6.1 and literals are in Section 7.8.

The above (Section 7.6) implies that IdentifierNames can be ReservedWords, and from the specification for object initializers:

Section 11.1.5


ObjectLiteral :
  { }
  { PropertyNameAndValueList }
  { PropertyNameAndValueList , }

Where PropertyName is, by specification:

PropertyName :

As you can see, a PropertyName may be an IdentifierName, thus allowing ReservedWords to be PropertyNames. That conclusively tells us that, by specification, it is allowed to have ReservedWords such as class and var as PropertyNames unquoted just like string literals or numeric literals.

To read more, see Section 7.6 - Identifier Names and Identifiers.

Note: the syntax highlighter in this example has spotted the reserved word and still highlighted it. While the example is valid Javascript developers can get caught out by some compiler / transpiler, linter and minifier tools that argue otherwise.