data type

A data type, in programming, is a classification that specifies which type of value a variable has and what type of mathematical, relational or logical operations can be applied to it without causing an error. A string, for example, is a data type that is used to classify text and an integer is a data type used to classify whole numbers.

Data Type

Used for



Alphanumeric characters

hello world, Alice, Bob123


Whole numbers

7, 12, 999

Float (floating point)

Number with a decimal point

3.15, 9.06, 00.13


Encoding text numerically

97 (in ASCII, 97 is a lower case 'a')


Representing logical values


The data type defines which operations can safely be performed to create, transform and use the variable in another computation. When a program language requires a variable to only be used in ways that respect its data type, that language is said to be strongly typed. This prevents errors, because while it is logical to ask the computer to multiply a float by an integer (1.5 x 5), it is illogical to ask the computer to multiply a float by a string (1.5 x Alice). When a programming language allows a variable of one data type to be used as if it were a value of another data type, the language is said to be weakly typed.

Technically, the concept of a strongly typed or weakly typed programming language is a fallacy. In every programming language, all values of a variable have a static type -- but the type might be one whose values are classified into one or more classes. And while some classes specify how the data type’s value will be compiled or interpreted, there are other classes whose values are not marked with their class until run-time. The extent to which a programming language discourages or prevents type error is known as type safety.


This was last updated in November 2016

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