I am using Arduino and I would like to know if there is a function that returns the data type of a variable. That is, I would like to run something as like the following:

// Note: 'typeof' is a sample function that should return the data type.
  • 6
    Why do you need to do this? the type of the variable should be known since you declared it
    – sachleen
    Jun 25, 2014 at 14:44
  • @sachleen Not true. Arduino Reference info is infamous for not telling you what function return types are. I have to define as auto, then use a bunch of function overloads to find out. RTTI would be simpler to find out.
    – brewmanz
    Jun 7 at 2:01

5 Answers 5


In a typical C++ program, you would use the typeid operator, like this:

std::cout << typeid(myVar).name();

However, that requires a compiler feature called Runtime Type Information (RTTI). It's disabled in the Arduino IDE, presumably because it tends to increase the runtime memory requirements of the program.

You can get more information about the resource cost here: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/579887/how-expensive-is-rtti

Any fully-featured C++ compiler will definitely support RTTI though. If you want to try using a 3rd party IDE (such as Eclipse with the Arduino plugin) then you could easily enable it. It's probably not worth the hassle just for that though.

A higher-performing (but less flexible) solution would be to use a traits class approach. This involves some funky template meta-programming:

// Generic catch-all implementation.
template <typename T_ty> struct TypeInfo { static const char * name; };
template <typename T_ty> const char * TypeInfo<T_ty>::name = "unknown";

// Handy macro to make querying stuff easier.
#define TYPE_NAME(var) TypeInfo< typeof(var) >::name

// Handy macro to make defining stuff easier.
#define MAKE_TYPE_INFO(type)  template <> const char * TypeInfo<type>::name = #type;

// Type-specific implementations.

You can add MAKE_TYPE_INFO(..) lines for any type you want, including the names of custom classes. You could then use it like this:

int myVar = 17;
Serial.println( TYPE_NAME(myVar) );

Anything you don't define using MAKE_TYPE_INFO(..) will show up as "unknown".

That's some fairly advanced stuff in there, so I won't try to explain how it all works here. There are various tutorials on the web though about C++ template programming if you're interested.

EDIT: It's worth noting that the typeof operator isn't standard C++, but is supported by a few compilers, such as GCC. It's basically an older equivalent of decltype, which appears in the C++11 standard.

  • 3
    very informative and thorough answer! would appreciate more of this kind
    – Omer
    Jun 26, 2014 at 11:21

I use a simple stupid approach...

// serial print variable type
void types(String a) { Serial.println("it's a String"); }
void types(int a) { Serial.println("it's an int"); }
void types(char *a) { Serial.println("it's a char*"); }
void types(float a) { Serial.println("it's a float"); }
void types(bool a) { Serial.println("it's a bool"); }

This is the concept of polymorphism where multiple functions with different parameter types are created but with the same function name. During run time, the function matching the right number of arguments and argument type(s) will get called. Hope this explanation helps.

  • Could you expand your answer a little, briefly explaining how it works? Jun 1, 2017 at 4:45
  • i had to rewrite it by hand because copy paste led to issues i didn't understand. After retyping it by hand just as it is to the sketch it worked like a charm. Quite usefull...
    – novski
    Apr 1, 2018 at 9:38
  • Simple, easier to understand without knowledge of templates. Could be expanded to return enum of type. Jul 28, 2021 at 9:44

Building on @snakeNET's answer (which I regard as function overload rather than polymorphism)...

A more generic way would be to pass in a pointer to Print, allowing any Print related class to be used (not just Serial); also pass objects by reference e.g.

void types(Print* p, const String&) { p->print("it's a String"); } // for each type
Serial.print("Type is "); types(&Serial, myStr); Serial.println();

Note that I has changed 'println' to 'print'; again, making it more generic.

  • 1
    I think the meaning of the term polymorphism has morphed somewhat over the decades to now include function overloading outside of OOP classes as well as overloading of member functions within classes. When I started learning programming, it only referred to overriding of virtual class methods in descendant classes.
    – tim
    Jul 27, 2021 at 21:58

I tested the template form, the long-hand form, and the __PRETTY_FUNCTION__ macro and got different results. See the last two rows of the table for the differences.

Template Form 1

Attribution: Peter Bloomfield

MAKE_TYPE_INFO( double )
MAKE_TYPE_INFO( double* )
MAKE_TYPE_INFO( float* )
MAKE_TYPE_INFO( short* )
MAKE_TYPE_INFO( char[5] )
MAKE_TYPE_INFO( char(*)[5] )

Long-Hand Form


  1. SnakeNET
  2. brewmanz
  3. Tweaked by me to be more generic.
const char* TypeOf(const bool&)   { static const char type[] = "bool";    return type; }
const char* TypeOf(const bool*)   { static const char type[] = "bool*";   return type; }
const char* TypeOf(const char&)   { static const char type[] = "char";    return type; }
const char* TypeOf(const char*)   { static const char type[] = "char*";   return type; }
const char* TypeOf(const double&) { static const char type[] = "double";  return type; }
const char* TypeOf(const double*) { static const char type[] = "double*"; return type; }
const char* TypeOf(const float&)  { static const char type[] = "float";   return type; }
const char* TypeOf(const float*)  { static const char type[] = "float*";  return type; }
const char* TypeOf(const int&)    { static const char type[] = "int";     return type; }
const char* TypeOf(const int*)    { static const char type[] = "int*";    return type; }
const char* TypeOf(const String&) { static const char type[] = "String";  return type; }
const char* TypeOf(const String*) { static const char type[] = "String*"; return type; }
//const char* const TypeOf(const char[5])    { static const char* type = "char[5]";    return type; }  // Decays to char* so generates compiler redefinition warning.
const char* const TypeOf(const char(*)[5]) { static const char* type = "char(*)[5]"; return type; }

Template Form 2: __PRETTY_FUNCTION__ Macro


  1. Original String version by Vladimir Talybin
  2. Tweaked char array version by me.

Using String

template <class T>
String type_name(const T&)
    String s = __PRETTY_FUNCTION__;
    int start = s.indexOf("[with T = ") + 10;
    int stop = s.lastIndexOf(']');
    return s.substring(start, stop);

Using char array

This variation has lower memory requirements.

template <typename T>
char* type_name(const T&)
    char* pf = __PRETTY_FUNCTION__;
    char* begin = strstr(pf, "[with T = ") + 10;
    char* end = strrchr(pf, ']');
    *end = 0;
    return begin;

Test Code

bool b = false;
char c = 'a';
double d = 1.2;
float f = 3.4;
int i = 5;
String s = "6789";
char chars[] = "1234";

Serial.println(F("TypeOf() Test"));

Serial.println(F("TYPE_NAME() Test"));

Serial.println(F("type_name() Test"));


TypeOf() TYPE_NAME() type_name()
bool bool bool
bool* bool* bool*
char char char
char* char* char*
double double double
double* double* double*
float float float
float* float* float*
int int int
int* int* int*
String String String
String* String* String*
char* char[5] char [5]
char(*)[5] char(*)[5] char (*)[5]

Some Conclusions

  1. TypeOf() has an issue with a decaying pointer.
  2. TypeOf() and TYPE_NAME() have to have individual definitions with long-hand form or MAKE_TYPE_INFO.
  3. type_name() uses the __PRETTY_FUNCTION__ macro to automatically get the type name within the template function, therefore there is no need to individually define the different types.
  4. Template Form 1 has the lowest memory requirements.


  1. Since Template Form 2 has higher memory requirements than Template Form 1, how could it be converted from Form 2 to Form 1?
  2. How would a static const char * be initialised from a substring of a char array obtained from the __PRETTY_FUNCTION__ macro and passed as a template argument at compile-time?

Something like this pseudo code?

static const char * name = substr(__PRETTY_FUNCTION__, begin, end);

Perhaps this constant expression which can be assigned to a template struct member at compile-time? (I used a for loop because strstr and strrchr are not constexpr.)

template <typename T>
constexpr char* type_name(const T&)
    char* pf = __PRETTY_FUNCTION__;
    char* begin;
    char* end;
    begin = end = pf;
    bool found_open_square_bracket = false;
    for (; *pf != 0; pf++)
      if (!found_open_square_bracket && *pf == '[')
        begin = pf + 10;
        found_open_square_bracket = true;
      if (*pf == ']')
        end = pf;
    *end = 0;
    return begin;
  • 1
    Note that: 1. When you pass an array as a function argument, it decays to a pointer to its first element. 2. char*[5] is an array of pointers, whereas &chars is a pointer to an array. Jul 28, 2021 at 9:09
  • 1
    @Juraj, Sorry. I thought the first paragraph covered it in the context of this thread. I'll make it clearer.
    – tim
    Jul 31, 2021 at 15:57
  • 1
    It is more a limitation of C÷+ version in Arduino. On PC I would return std::string_view in this case. On Arduino you may return a struct of const char* and size_t. This will solve you mem issue. Jul 31, 2021 at 19:46
  • 1
    I would also split the template part and parsing part in 2 functions to make compiler generate less code for each requested type. Jul 31, 2021 at 19:48

There also a trick using compiler predefined macro. The advantage is it can print any type.

template <class T>
String type_name(const T&)
    String s = __PRETTY_FUNCTION__;

    int start = s.indexOf("[with T = ") + 10;
    int stop = s.lastIndexOf(']');

    return s.substring(start, stop);

Use it like this

double pi = 3.14;
const char* str = "test";


Some improvements based on tim's analyze.

First I have a comment on variation that has lower memory requirements. __PRETTY_FUNCTION__ is a literal string (a constant) that should not be changed. So my const version that do not use heap is following.

template <size_t N>
const char* extract_type(const char (&signature)[N])
    const char* beg = signature;
    while (*beg++ != '=');

    const char* end = signature + N;
    for (; *end != ']'; --end);

    static char buf[N];
    char* it = buf;

    for (; beg != end; ++beg, ++it)
        *it = *beg;
    *it = 0;

    return buf;

template <class T>
const char* type_name(const T&)
    return extract_type(__PRETTY_FUNCTION__);

A less safe but more efficient version using the fact that offset to type we want extract is a constant (always the same). If function signature changes (like put it in a namespace) the offset will change too. But come on, set it once, write a comment and it will work forever :).

template <size_t N>
const char* extract_type(const char (&signature)[N])
    const char* beg = signature + 42;
    const char* end = signature + N - 2;

    static char buf[N - 43];
    char* it = buf;

    for (; beg != end; ++beg, ++it)
        *it = *beg;
    *it = 0;

    return buf;

template <class T>
const char* type_name(const T&)
    return extract_type(__PRETTY_FUNCTION__);

While above is ok ofcourse it can be improved further. Here is a my version of constexpr function mentioned by @tim. It uses constant offset as above to keep it short. This code generates only extracted string of type, the proof is here.

#include <utility>

template <class T, std::size_t... I>
const char* type_name(std::index_sequence<I...>)
    static constexpr char name[] = { __PRETTY_FUNCTION__[I + 60]..., 0 };
    return name;

template <class T>
const char* type_name(const T&)
    return type_name<T>(
        std::make_index_sequence<sizeof(__PRETTY_FUNCTION__) - 44>());

The minimum requirement for this is C++14 because of sequence traits. These can be re-implemented (see definition here) to adapt it to C++11.

  • That's great, but int stop = s.lastIndexOf(']'); is better because some types have [] in them.
    – tim
    Jul 31, 2021 at 10:29
  • @tim True, thank you! Will change it. Jul 31, 2021 at 11:40

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