Extension Methods

Extension methods allow one to add methods to a type after the type is defined. Example:

case class Circle(x: Double, y: Double, radius: Double)

def (c: Circle).circumference: Double = c.radius * math.Pi * 2

Like regular methods, extension methods can be invoked with infix .:

val circle = Circle(0, 0, 1)

Translation of Extension Methods

Extension methods are methods that have a parameter clause in front of the defined identifier. They translate to methods where the leading parameter section is moved to after the defined identifier. So, the definition of circumference above translates to the plain method, and can also be invoked as such:

def circumference(c: Circle): Double = c.radius * math.Pi * 2

assert(circle.circumference == circumference(circle))

Translation of Calls to Extension Methods

When is an extension method applicable? There are two possibilities.

As an example, consider an extension method longestStrings on Seq[String] defined in a trait StringSeqOps.

trait StringSeqOps {
  def (xs: Seq[String]).longestStrings = {
    val maxLength = xs.map(_.length).max
    xs.filter(_.length == maxLength)

We can make the extension method available by defining a given StringSeqOps instance, like this:

given ops1 as StringSeqOps


List("here", "is", "a", "list").longestStrings

is legal everywhere ops1 is available. Alternatively, we can define longestStrings as a member of a normal object. But then the method has to be brought into scope to be usable as an extension method.

object ops2 extends StringSeqOps
import ops2.longestStrings
List("here", "is", "a", "list").longestStrings

The precise rules for resolving a selection to an extension method are as follows.

Assume a selection e.m[Ts] where m is not a member of e, where the type arguments [Ts] are optional, and where T is the expected type. The following two rewritings are tried in order:

  1. The selection is rewritten to m[Ts](e).
  2. If the first rewriting does not typecheck with expected type T, and there is a given instance g in either the current scope or in the context scope of T, and g defines an extension method named m, then selection is expanded to g.m[Ts](e). This second rewriting is attempted at the time where the compiler also tries an implicit conversion from T to a type containing m. If there is more than one way of rewriting, an ambiguity error results.

So circle.circumference translates to CircleOps.circumference(circle), provided circle has type Circle and CircleOps is given (i.e. it is visible at the point of call or it is defined in the companion object of Circle).


The extension method syntax also applies to the definition of operators. This case is indicated by omitting the period between the leading parameter list and the operator. In each case the definition syntax mirrors the way the operator is applied. Examples:

def (x: String) < (y: String) = ...
def (x: Elem) +: (xs: Seq[Elem]) = ...
def (x: Number) min (y: Number) = ...

"ab" < "c"
1 +: List(2, 3)
x min 3

For alphanumeric extension operators like min an @infix annotation is implied.

The three definitions above translate to

def < (x: String)(y: String) = ...
def +: (xs: Seq[Elem])(x: Elem) = ...
def min(x: Number)(y: Number) = ...

Note the swap of the two parameters x and xs when translating the right-binding operator +: to an extension method. This is analogous to the implementation of right binding operators as normal methods.

Generic Extensions

The StringSeqOps examples extended a specific instance of a generic type. It is also possible to extend a generic type by adding type parameters to an extension method. Examples:

def [T](xs: List[T]) second =

def [T](xs: List[List[T]]) flattened =
  xs.foldLeft[List[T]](Nil)(_ ++ _)

def [T: Numeric](x: T) + (y: T): T =
  summon[Numeric[T]].plus(x, y)

If an extension method has type parameters, they come immediately after the def and are followed by the extended parameter. When calling a generic extension method, any explicitly given type arguments follow the method name. So the second method can be instantiated as follows:

List(1, 2, 3).second[Int]

Extension Instances

It is quite common to wrap one or more extension methods in a given instance, in order to make them available as methods without needing to be imported explicitly. This pattern is supported by a special extension syntax. Example:

extension ops {
  def (xs: Seq[String]).longestStrings: Seq[String] = {
    val maxLength = xs.map(_.length).max
    xs.filter(_.length == maxLength)
  def (xs: Seq[String]).longestString: String = xs.longestStrings.head
  def [T](xs: List[T]).second: T = xs.tail.head

An extension instance can only contain extension methods. Other definitions are not allowed. The name ops of the extension is optional. It can be left out:

extension {
  def (xs: Seq[String]).longestStrings: Seq[String] = ...
  def [T](xs: List[T]).second: T = ...

If the name of an extension is not explicitly given, it is synthesized from the name and type of the first implemented extension method.

Extension instances map directly to given instances. The ops extension above would expand to

given ops as AnyRef {
  def (xs: Seq[String]).longestStrings: Seq[String] = ...
  def (xs: Seq[String]).longestString: String = ...
  def [T](xs: List[T]).second: T = ...

The type "implemented" by this given instance is AnyRef, which is not a type one can summon by itself. This means that the instance can only be used for its extension methods.

Collective Extensions

Sometimes, one wants to define several extension methods that share the same left-hand parameter type. In this case one can "pull out" the common parameters into the extension instance itself. Examples:

extension stringOps on (ss: Seq[String]) {
  def longestStrings: Seq[String] = {
    val maxLength = ss.map(_.length).max
    ss.filter(_.length == maxLength)
  def longestString: String = longestStrings.head

extension listOps on [T](xs: List[T]) {
  def second: T = xs.tail.head
  def third: T = xs.tail.second

extension on [T](xs: List[T])(using Ordering[T]) {
  def largest(n: Int) = xs.sorted.takeRight(n)

Note: If a collective extension defines type parameters in its prefix (as the listOps extension above does), the extension methods themselves are not allowed to have additional type parameters. This restriction might be lifted in the future once we support multiple type parameter clauses in a method.

Collective extensions like these are a shorthand for extension instances where the parameters following the on are repeated for each implemented method. For instance, the collective extensions above expand to the following extension instances:

extension stringOps {
  def (ss: Seq[String]).longestStrings: Seq[String] = {
    val maxLength = ss.map(_.length).max
    ss.filter(_.length == maxLength)
  def (ss: Seq[String]).longestString: String =
extension listOps {
  def [T](xs: List[T]).second: T = xs.tail.head
  def [T](xs: List[T]).third: T = xs.tail.second
extension {
  def [T](xs: List[T]).largest(using Ordering[T])(n: Int) =

One special tweak is shown in the longestString method of the stringOps extension. It's original definition was

def longestString: String = longestStrings.head

This uses longestStrings as an implicit extension method call on the joint parameter ss. The usage is made explicit when translating the method:

def (ss: Seq[String]).longestString: String =

By contrast, the meaning of this in a collective extension is as usual a reference to the enclosing object (i.e. the one implementing the extension methods). It's not a reference to the shared parameter. So this means that the following implementation of longestString would be illegal:

def longestString: String = this.longestStrings.head   // error: missing parameter

But the following version would again be correct, since it calls the longestString method as a regular non-extension method, passing the prefix parameter ss as a regular parameter:

def longestString: String = this.longestStrings(ss).head


Here are the syntax changes for extension methods and collective extensions relative to the current syntax.

DefSig            ::=  ...
                    |  ExtParamClause [nl] [‘.’] id DefParamClauses
ExtParamClause    ::=  [DefTypeParamClause] ‘(’ DefParam ‘)’
TmplDef           ::=  ...
                    |  ‘extension’ ExtensionDef
ExtensionDef      ::=  [id] [‘on’ ExtParamClause {GivenParamClause}] TemplateBody

The template body of an extension must consist only of extension method definitions for a regular extension instance, and only of normal method definitions for a collective extension instance. It must not be empty.

extension and on are soft keywords, recognized only when they appear at the start of a statement in one of the patterns

extension on ...
extension <ident> on ...
extension { ...
extension <ident> { ...