What does the comment "frozen_string_literal: true" do?

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This is the rspec binstub in my project directory.

#!/usr/bin/env ruby
  load File.expand_path("../spring", __FILE__)
rescue LoadError
# frozen_string_literal: true
# This file was generated by Bundler.
# The application 'rspec' is installed as part of a gem, and
# this file is here to facilitate running it.

require "pathname"
ENV["BUNDLE_GEMFILE"] ||= File.expand_path("../../Gemfile",

require "rubygems"
require "bundler/setup"

load Gem.bin_path("rspec-core", "rspec")

What is this intended to do?

# frozen_string_literal: true

# frozen_string_literal: true is a magic comment, supported for the first time in Ruby 2.3, that tells Ruby that all string literals in the file are implicitly frozen, as if #freeze had been called on each of them. That is, if a string literal is defined in a file with this comment, and you call a method on that string which modifies it, such as <<, you'll get RuntimeError: can't modify frozen String.

The comment must be on the first line of the file.

In Ruby 2.3, you can use this magic comment to prepare for frozen string literals being the default in Ruby 3.

In Ruby 2.3 run with the --enable=frozen-string-literal flag, and in Ruby 3, string literals are frozen in all files. You can override the global setting with # frozen_string_literal: false.

If you want a string literal to be mutable regardless of the global or per-file setting, you can prefix it with the unary + operator (being careful with operator precedence) or call .dup on it:

# frozen_string_literal: true
=> true
=> false
=> false

You can also freeze a mutable (unfrozen) string with unary -.

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Comment definition and meaning, comment meaning: 1. something that you say or write that expresses your opinion: 2. used to say that you do not…. Learn more. In computer programming, a comment is a programmer-readable explanation or annotation in the source code of a computer program. They are added with the purpose of making the source code easier for humans to understand, and are generally ignored by compilers and interpreters.

In Ruby 3.0. Matz (Ruby’s creator) decided to make all String literals frozen by default.

You can use in Ruby 2.x. Just add this comment in the first line of your files.

# frozen_string_literal: true

The above comment at top of a file changes semantics of static string literals in the file. The static string literals will be frozen and always returns same object. (The semantics of dynamic string literals is not changed.)

This way has following benefits:

No ugly f-suffix. No syntax error on older Ruby. We need only a line for each file.

Plese, read this topic for more information.


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  • Important thing to notice regarding freezing strings is that it improves app's performance. See also here
  • @dave-schweisguth Shouldn't we expect -"foo" to be the same as "foo".freeze? When I check (-"foo").__id__ I get a different value each time, but "foo".freeze.__id__ is same each time. Any ideas?
  • I wonder if this function is the issue, it seems to only be called with the unary minus. github.com/ruby/ruby/blob/trunk/string.c#L2572
  • - is for deduplicating the String to save memory, in addition to returning a frozen String.
  • While you still can use the magic comment, Matz officially decided not to make all string literals immutable by default in Ruby 3: bugs.ruby-lang.org/issues/11473#note-53
  • Upvote for The Man In Black (and the answer).
  • Unfortunately this comment does not work for strings in arrays, so they still need to be freezed explicitly
  • Unfortunately this will not be in ruby 3 bugs.ruby-lang.org/issues/11473#note-53