Introduction
Do you know the popular data structure Set
in Javascript? Or you might have seen the below snippet in some of Javascript codes.
const mySet = new Set();
mySet.add("apple");
console.log(mySet.has("apple")); // OUTPUT: True
mySet.delete("apple");
console.log(mySet.has(apple)); // OUTPUT: False
Set
is a builtin data structure that allows you to store unique values of any type, whether they are primitive values of object references. Unlike arrays, which allow duplicate values, a Set
guarantees that all elements are unique.
Key Characteristics of a Javascript Set

Uniqueness: A
Set
has no duplicates and if you try to add a duplicate value it is ignored. 
Order: A
Set
maintains insertion order, so values are iterated in the order they were inserted. 
Data types: A
Set
can hold any type, including objects, primitives and even other set. 
No KeyValue pairs: A
Set
only has values unlike keyvalue pairs inMap
.
Advantages of using a Javascript Set
 Automatic uniqueness: Every element in the set is unique.
 Fast lookups: Checking if an element exists is faster than in array due to it's constant time complexity O(1).
It is worth noting that, there are many advantages of using Set
such as in mathematics and complex database systems but let's stick with these two for now.
Implementation
Normally a Set
in Javascript is implemented by hashing the value(due to absence of keyvalue pairs, we just regard it to key) passed as an argument in a hashing function. The hashing implementation is not explicity described in Javascript documentation, so we will implement our own hashing function (π€fingers crossed, it outperforms our considerations which we will talk about later). It's also worth noting that, we will implement a sort of Linked List through chaining to avoid collisions if two different keys have them same hash code after hashing. If you don't know what is hashing? what does it do? and how it's done?, please check out this article.
Node class
We will create a class
called Node
to store/add our keys. This class will create an object that has key and next property.
class Node {
constructor(key){
this.key = key;
this.next = next;
}
}
HashSet class
We will create a HashSet
class that implements our hashing function and other useful Set
methods. In our constructor we declare a variable initialCapacity
equal to 1, to store the initial length of buckets array.
Buckets are useful storage location of keys which will be hashed. We will use these buckets to do operations (like delete, insert, lookup) on that key by using the hash generated.
Size property is initialized to track the size of our hash set and load factor of 0.75 is set in order to expand our buckets when 75% of elements fill up the buckets.
class HashSet {
constructor(initialCapacity = 1) {
this.buckets = new Array(initialCapacity);
this.size = 0;
this.loadFactor = 0.75;
}
}
Hash function
We define a method (object function) that takes as a parameter the key that is supposed to be hashed and return the hash code which will be used as index for the bucket to store the key.
// Define hash function inside the HashSet class
hash(key) {
let primeNumber = 31;
let hashCode = 0;
for(let i = 0; i < key.length; i++) {
hashCode = (primeNumber * hashCode + key.charCodeAt(i)) % this.buckets.length;
}
return hashCode;
}
We multiply by prime number 31 because it helps reduce the possibility of hash code being evenly divisible buckets length and avoid collision (though not at 100%). Prime number 31 is a choice in this case as it one of the prime number that does not lead to many collisions. You can read this stackoverflow question to get more context. We also find the UTF16 code of the key by iterating through every character in the key and later modulo the whole operation by our buckets length to avoid hash codes outside our buckets length.
Add method
Inside the hash set class and below the hash function we add our first method to put keys inside our hash set. Add method takes the key as a parameter. In the first if statement we check if size has reached the load factor in order to resize our hash set.
If the hash set is empty, we then find the index in the buckets array, where our hashed key will stay. Check the bucket at the index if it is empty and then put our key inside else we return that the key already exists, and if it does exist we set the next property equal to the new key.
add(key) {
if (this.size >= this.buckets * this.loadFactor) {
this.resize() // Resize our hash set as elements increase
}
const index = this.hash(key);
if (!this.buckets[index]) {
this.buckets[index] = new Node(key);
this.size++;
return true;
} else {
let current = this.buckets[index];
while (current) {
if (current.key === key) {
return false; // Key already exists
}
if (!current.next) {
current.next = new Node(key);
this.size++;
return true;
}
current = current.next;
}
}
}
Has method
The has method return a boolean, if the key is available in the hash set. It takes a key parameter and hashes it to find the index of the key in the buckets array. It then iterates throught the hash set and return true if current index key is equal to the key parameter.
has(key){
const index = this.hash(key);
let current = this.buckets[index];
while(current){
if(current.key === key){
return true;
}
current = current.next;
}
return false;
}
Remove method
The remove method, removes a key passed as a parameter. It hashes the key and gives the index in the bucket array. Keeps track of the previous node by defining let prev = null
. After that we iterate the hash set and check if our current key of iteration is equal to the key. If it is equal and it is not the first element because in the first element the previous node is null, we remove that node else we remove the first node. Later we update the previous node equal to current node and current node equal to the next node to ensure our iterations goes through all elements.
remove(key) {
const index = this.hash(key);
let current = this.buckets[index];
let prev = null
while (current) {
if (current.key === key){
if (prev){
prev.next = current.next;
}else {
this.bucket[index] = current.next
}
this.size;
return true;
}
prev = current;
current = current.next;
}
return false;
}
Resize method
Resize methods expands the length of our buckets array when elements in the bucket reach the load factor. In other words when we have three elements(keys) or above and four buckets, we double our buckets array. Resize method also acts as an add method on the new capacity of our hash set. It rehashes previous available elements and put them in buckets array again. This helps to reduce collision and evenly distribute elements.
resize() {
const newCapacity = this.buckets.length * 2;
const newBuckets = new Array(newCapacity);
for(let i = 0; i < this.buckets.length; i++) {
let current = this.buckets[i];
while(current){
const newIndex = this.hash(current.key) % newCapacity;
if(!newBuckets[newIndex]){
newBuckets[newIndex] = new Node(current.key);
} else {
let newCurrent = newBuckets[newIndex];
while(newCurrent.next){
newCurrent = newCurrent.next;
}
newCurrent.next = new Node(current.key);
}
current = current.next
}
}
this.buckets = newBuckets;
}
Size method
The size method return the size of our hash set.
size(){
return this.size;
}
Clear method
Clear method, clear our hash set and set the size equal to 0.
clear(){
this.buckets = new Array(1);
this.size = 0;
}
Keys method
Keys method create an array and iterates over the hash set to push all available keys one by one including keys that were hashed to the same index.
keys() {
const allKeys = [];
for (let i = 0; i < this.buckets.length; i++) {
let current = this.buckets[i];
while (current) {
allKeys.push(current.key);
current = current.next;
}
}
return allKeys;
}
There are other useful methods like bucketCount()
to see how many buckets are in our hash set and collisions
to view all the collisions in our hash set but that's something for later on. If your interested to see how they are implemented, go checkout this github repo.
Common Considerations
 Hash Collisions: In practice, hash functions can result in the same index for different keys. This implementation resolves collisions using chaining, where multiple values are stored in an array at the same index.
 Performance Considerations: A poorly distributed hash function can cause excessive collisions, making the time complexity closer to O(n) instead of O(1).
Common Use Cases
 Filtering Duplicates: For example, when you need to remove duplicates from a list of items.
 Membership Testing: Checking if a value exists in a collection.
 Efficient Data Lookups: For quick existence checks in algorithms that require this (like graph algorithms or caching).
That's it for this tutorial, I hope you have learned something. If you have any suggestions, corrections, opinions don't hesitate to say something.
Top comments (3)
Gareth Parkin explains set implementation in JavaScript, a crucial data structure for storing unique values. Using the Set object, developers can easily create a collection that automatically removes duplicates. To implement a set, simply declare it with
new Set()
, then add values using theadd()
method. Sets also offer useful methods likehas()
,delete()
, andclear()
for efficient data management. This functionality enhances performance, particularly in scenarios requiring frequent uniqueness checks or data filtering.In JavaScript, a Set is a collection of unique values, meaning each value can only appear once. Unlike arrays, Sets do not allow duplicate elements, making them ideal for situations where you need to ensure uniqueness. Sets were introduced in ECMAScript 6 (ES6) and provide a simple yet powerful way to manage collections of distinct items.
To create a Set in JavaScript, you can use the Set constructor:
javascript
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let mySet = new Set();
You can add elements to a Set using the add() method:
javascript
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mySet.add(1);
mySet.add(2);
mySet.add(1); // This won't be added since 1 is already in the Set
Sets automatically filter out duplicates, so the same value wonβt be stored more than once. To check the number of elements in a Set, you can use the size property:
javascript
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console.log(mySet.size); // Output: 2
You can check if an element exists using has() and remove items with delete():
javascript
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mySet.has(1); // true
mySet.delete(1);
Additionally, Sets can be iterated over using forEach() or for...of loops:
javascript
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mySet.forEach(value => console.log(value));
JavaScript Sets are useful for tasks like removing duplicates from arrays, performing set operations like union and intersection, and managing unique data in an efficient way.
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