Fausto's blog

TypeScript - Using Record is usually not the best choice

This post is part of an ongoing series on TypeScript. In it, I try to explain in a detailed way different situations I’ve faced while building relatively big React applications using TypeScript, and moving them from JavaScript. Here’s a list of other posts I’ve written about TypeScript:


It’s often tempting to define a type for key-value stores using TypeScript’s Record if you don’t know your object’s keys during development.

type Record<K extends string, T> = { [P in K]: T }

By using it alongside a type that could be used for an infinite set of values as an argument for K, we’re promising TypeScript that our object will contain a value of type T for any key. An object with values for an infinite set of keys does not exist, and by forgetting this we might introduce bugs in our code:

type Breed = string

interface Dog {
  name: string
}

const dogsByBreed: Record<Breed, Dog[]> = {
  akita: [{ name: 'Walter' }, { name: 'Gracie' }],
  dachshund: [{ name: 'Charlie' }],
}

dogsByBreed.poodle // Type is Dog[], value is undefined.

We never told TypeScript that our property access may not return a value, so it will accept the type of the returned value to be Dog[]. Use your own type for these situations. Here are example implementations:

type Dictionary<K extends string, T> = Partial<Record<K, T>>
type Dictionary<K extends string, T> = { [P in K]?: T }

// If you need to support numbers and symbols as keys:
type Dictionary<K extends keyof any, T> = Partial<Record<K, T>>
type Dictionary<K extends keyof any, T> = { [P in K]?: T }

const dogsByBreed: Dictionary<Breed, Dog[]> = {
  akita: [{ name: 'Walter' }, { name: 'Gracie' }],
  dachshund: [{ name: 'Charlie' }],
}

dogsByBreed.poodle // Type is Dog[] | undefined, value is undefined.

This way, you’ll be forced to handle the undefined case.

Ideal use of the Record type requires knowledge during development of the specific keys that will be used. You can do this by using a discriminated union type with literals:

type Breed = 'akita' | 'dachshund'

const dogsByBreed: Record<Breed, Dog[]> = {
  akita: [{ name: 'Walter' }, { name: 'Gracie' }],
  dachshund: [{ name: 'Charlie' }],
}

// Here, the compiler will yield a type error:
// Property 'poodle' does not exist on type 'Record<Breed, Dog[]>'.
dogsByBreed.poodle

Related documentation: