8 Declarators [dcl.decl]

8.5 Initializers [dcl.init]

8.5.4 List-initialization [dcl.init.list]

List-initialization is initialization of an object or reference from a braced-init-list. Such an initializer is called an initializer list, and the comma-separated initializer-clauses of the list are called the elements of the initializer list. An initializer list may be empty. List-initialization can occur in direct-initialization or copy-initialization contexts; list-initialization in a direct-initialization context is called direct-list-initialization and list-initialization in a copy-initialization context is called copy-list-initialization. [ Note: List-initialization can be used


int a = {1};
std::complex<double> z{1,2};
new std::vector<std::string>{"once", "upon", "a", "time"};  // 4 string elements
f( {"Nicholas","Annemarie"} );  // pass list of two elements
return { "Norah" };             // return list of one element
int* e {};                      // initialization to zero / null pointer
x = double{1};                  // explicitly construct a double 
std::map<std::string,int> anim = { {"bear",4}, {"cassowary",2}, {"tiger",7} };

 — end example ]  — end note ]

A constructor is an initializer-list constructor if its first parameter is of type std::initializer_list<E> or reference to possibly cv-qualified std::initializer_list<E> for some type E, and either there are no other parameters or else all other parameters have default arguments ([dcl.fct.default]). [ Note: Initializer-list constructors are favored over other constructors in list-initialization ([over.match.list]). Passing an initializer list as the argument to the constructor template template<class T> C(T) of a class C does not create an initializer-list constructor, because an initializer list argument causes the corresponding parameter to be a non-deduced context ([temp.deduct.call]).  — end note ] The template std::initializer_list is not predefined; if the header <initializer_list> is not included prior to a use of std::initializer_list — even an implicit use in which the type is not named ([dcl.spec.auto]) — the program is ill-formed.

List-initialization of an object or reference of type T is defined as follows:

  • If T is an aggregate, aggregate initialization is performed ([dcl.init.aggr]).


    double ad[] = { 1, 2.0 };           // OK
    int ai[] = { 1, 2.0 };              // error: narrowing
    struct S2 {
      int m1;
      double m2, m3;
    S2 s21 = { 1, 2, 3.0 };             // OK
    S2 s22 { 1.0, 2, 3 };               // error: narrowing
    S2 s23 { };                         // OK: default to 0,0,0

     — end example ]

  • Otherwise, if the initializer list has no elements and T is a class type with a default constructor, the object is value-initialized.

  • Otherwise, if T is a specialization of std::initializer_list<E>, a prvalue initializer_list object is constructed as described below and used to initialize the object according to the rules for initialization of an object from a class of the same type ([dcl.init]).

  • Otherwise, if T is a class type, constructors are considered. The applicable constructors are enumerated and the best one is chosen through overload resolution ([over.match], [over.match.list]). If a narrowing conversion (see below) is required to convert any of the arguments, the program is ill-formed.


    struct S {
      S(std::initializer_list<double>); // #1
      S(std::initializer_list<int>);    // #2
      S();                              // #3
      // ...
    S s1 = { 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 };           // invoke #1
    S s2 = { 1, 2, 3 };                 // invoke #2
    S s3 = { };                         // invoke #3

     — end example ]


    struct Map {
    Map ship = {{"Sophie",14}, {"Surprise",28}};

     — end example ]


    struct S {
      // no initializer-list constructors
      S(int, double, double);           // #1
      S();                              // #2
      // ...
    S s1 = { 1, 2, 3.0 };               // OK: invoke #1
    S s2 { 1.0, 2, 3 };                 // error: narrowing
    S s3 { };                           // OK: invoke #2

     — end example ]

  • Otherwise, if the initializer list has a single element of type E and either T is not a reference type or its referenced type is reference-related to E, the object or reference is initialized from that element; if a narrowing conversion (see below) is required to convert the element to T, the program is ill-formed.


    int x1 {2};                         // OK
    int x2 {2.0};                       // error: narrowing

     — end example ]

  • Otherwise, if T is a reference type, a prvalue temporary of the type referenced by T is copy-list-initialized or direct-list-initialized, depending on the kind of initialization for the reference, and the reference is bound to that temporary. [ Note: As usual, the binding will fail and the program is ill-formed if the reference type is an lvalue reference to a non-const type.  — end note ]


    struct S {
      S(std::initializer_list<double>); // #1
      S(const std::string&);            // #2
      // ...
    const S& r1 = { 1, 2, 3.0 };        // OK: invoke #1
    const S& r2 { "Spinach" };          // OK: invoke #2
    S& r3 = { 1, 2, 3 };                // error: initializer is not an lvalue
    const int& i1 = { 1 };              // OK
    const int& i2 = { 1.1 };            // error: narrowing
    const int (&iar)[2] = { 1, 2 };     // OK: iar is bound to temporary array

     — end example ]

  • Otherwise, if the initializer list has no elements, the object is value-initialized.


    int** pp {};                        // initialized to null pointer

     — end example ]

  • Otherwise, the program is ill-formed.


    struct A { int i; int j; };
    A a1 { 1, 2 };                      // aggregate initialization 
    A a2 { 1.2 };                       // error: narrowing
    struct B {
    B b1 { 1, 2 };                      // creates initializer_list<int> and calls constructor
    B b2 { 1, 2.0 };                    // error: narrowing
    struct C {
      C(int i, double j);
    C c1 = { 1, 2.2 };                  // calls constructor with arguments (1, 2.2) 
    C c2 = { 1.1, 2 };                  // error: narrowing
    int j { 1 };                        // initialize to 1
    int k { };                          // initialize to 0

     — end example ]

Within the initializer-list of a braced-init-list, the initializer-clauses, including any that result from pack expansions ([temp.variadic]), are evaluated in the order in which they appear. That is, every value computation and side effect associated with a given initializer-clause is sequenced before every value computation and side effect associated with any initializer-clause that follows it in the comma-separated list of the initializer-list. [ Note: This evaluation ordering holds regardless of the semantics of the initialization; for example, it applies when the elements of the initializer-list are interpreted as arguments of a constructor call, even though ordinarily there are no sequencing constraints on the arguments of a call.  — end note ]

An object of type std::initializer_list<E> is constructed from an initializer list as if the implementation allocated a temporary array of N elements of type const E, where N is the number of elements in the initializer list. Each element of that array is copy-initialized with the corresponding element of the initializer list, and the std::initializer_list<E> object is constructed to refer to that array. [ Note: A constructor or conversion function selected for the copy shall be accessible (Clause [class.access]) in the context of the initializer list.  — end note ] If a narrowing conversion is required to initialize any of the elements, the program is ill-formed.[ Example:

struct X {
  X(std::initializer_list<double> v);
X x{ 1,2,3 };

The initialization will be implemented in a way roughly equivalent to this:

const double __a[3] = {double{1}, double{2}, double{3}};
X x(std::initializer_list<double>(__a, __a+3));

assuming that the implementation can construct an initializer_list object with a pair of pointers.  — end example ]

The array has the same lifetime as any other temporary object ([class.temporary]), except that initializing an initializer_list object from the array extends the lifetime of the array exactly like binding a reference to a temporary. [ Example:

typedef std::complex<double> cmplx;
std::vector<cmplx> v1 = { 1, 2, 3 };

void f() {
  std::vector<cmplx> v2{ 1, 2, 3 };
  std::initializer_list<int> i3 = { 1, 2, 3 };

struct A {
  std::initializer_list<int> i4;
  A() : i4{ 1, 2, 3 } {}  // creates an A with a dangling reference

For v1 and v2, the initializer_list object is a parameter in a function call, so the array created for { 1, 2, 3 } has full-expression lifetime. For i3, the initializer_list object is a variable, so the array persists for the lifetime of the variable. For i4, the initializer_list object is initialized in a constructor's ctor-initializer, so the array persists only until the constructor exits, and so any use of the elements of i4 after the constructor exits produces undefined behavior.  — end example ] [ Note: The implementation is free to allocate the array in read-only memory if an explicit array with the same initializer could be so allocated.  — end note ]

A narrowing conversion is an implicit conversion

  • from a floating-point type to an integer type, or

  • from long double to double or float, or from double to float, except where the source is a constant expression and the actual value after conversion is within the range of values that can be represented (even if it cannot be represented exactly), or

  • from an integer type or unscoped enumeration type to a floating-point type, except where the source is a constant expression and the actual value after conversion will fit into the target type and will produce the original value when converted back to the original type, or

  • from an integer type or unscoped enumeration type to an integer type that cannot represent all the values of the original type, except where the source is a constant expression whose value after integral promotions will fit into the target type.

Note: As indicated above, such conversions are not allowed at the top level in list-initializations. — end note ] [ Example:

int x = 999;              // x is not a constant expression
const int y = 999;
const int z = 99;
char c1 = x;              // OK, though it might narrow (in this case, it does narrow)
char c2{x};               // error: might narrow
char c3{y};               // error: narrows (assuming char is 8 bits)
char c4{z};               // OK: no narrowing needed
unsigned char uc1 = {5};  // OK: no narrowing needed
unsigned char uc2 = {-1}; // error: narrows
unsigned int ui1 = {-1};  // error: narrows
signed int si1 =
  { (unsigned int)-1 };   // error: narrows
int ii = {2.0};           // error: narrows
float f1 { x };           // error: might narrow
float f2 { 7 };           // OK: 7 can be exactly represented as a float
int f(int);
int a[] =
  { 2, f(2), f(2.0) };    // OK: the double-to-int conversion is not at the top level

 — end example ]