Higher Order Function in Javascript

Learn What Higher Order Function is with Examples

April 28, 2019

What is Higher Order Function

Higher order function is a function that operates on other functions either by taking them as arguments or by returning them.

As the definition says, we have two cases in a higher order function either:

  1. Taking a function as an argument
  2. Returning a function.

If you are familiar with Javascript, you might already know a higher order function that is built in Javascript. For example, Array.prototype.map and Array.prototype.filter are higher order functions.

Both map and filter receive a function and perform their functionalities with the given function.

Taking a Function as an Argument (Map and Filter)

Map use case

Let say we have an array of people and want to add “Mr. ” in front of each person’s name. We can achieve this easily by using map.

const people = ["john", "Smith", "Sam"];
const addMr = people.map(function(person){
	return `Mr. ${person}`;
//addMr = [ 'Mr. john', 'Mr. Smith', 'Mr. Sam' ]
//ES6 version
const people = ["john", "Smith", "Sam"];
const addMr = people.map(person => `Mr. ${person}`);

Since map can easily change the contents of an array, it is wildly used in React to manipulate JSX.

Filter use case

Similar to map, filter also takes a function as an argument. It is useful when we want data that pass a certain criteria.

const age = [40, 22, 14, 54, 6];
const ageCanDrink = age.filter(function(arg){
	return arg > 17;
//ageCanDrink = [40, 22, 54]
//ES6 version
const age = [40, 22, 14, 54, 6];
const ageCanDrink = age.filter(arg => arg > 17);

Returning a function

So far, we have seen two built-in higher order functions that receive a function as an argument. How about returning a function? In this section, I will talk more in a higher order function that returns a function.

// nutshell of a higher order function that returns a function
function someFn(num){
	return function(){
		return num + num

If we call someFn(10), what do you think the output will be?

// it returns a function.
//ƒ (){
//		return num + num
//	}

// invoke the function!
// 20

As we can see, someFn returns the function, and we can invoke the function by calling the function with () syntax.

Let see an exciting example than someFn.

function greaterThan(n) {
  return m => m > n;
const greaterThan10 = greaterThan(10);
console.log(greaterThan10(11)); // true

This is a good use-case of a higher order function that behaves as general function. greaterThan function returns a function that validate whether given argument is greater than given another argument. So, greaterThan10 variable holds a function like this:

	return m > 10;

We can create many other functions based on greaterThan.

const greaterThan10 = greaterThan(10);
const greaterThan20 = greaterThan(20);
const greaterThan30 = greaterThan(30);


We have studied what a higher order function is. There are two cases. First, a higher order function can receive a function as an argument. Second, a higher order function return a function.

I hope this article makes you understand a higher order function, and hopefully, you can use and understand the code that has a higher order function!