Fraser Hamilton

How to flatten an array in JavaScript

June 17, 2020

Previously flattening an array in JavaScript could have you reaching for utility libraries like lodash or underscore but the language is constantly evolving and we can now use Array.prototype.flat() to achieve the same result in vanilla JavaScript. Here’s a simple example with a depth of 1:

const colors = [
  ['red', 'blue'],
  ['green', 'pink'],
]

const flatColors = colors.flat()

console.log(flatColors)

// ['red', 'blue', 'green', 'pink']

What if we wanted to flatten an array with a depth greater than 1? Luckily for us the flat method accepts a depth argument. Here’s how to flatten an array with a depth of 3:

const colors = [
  ['red', ['blue', 'yellow']],
  ['green', ['pink', ['orange', 'brown']]],
]

const flatColors = colors.flat(3)

console.log(flatColors)

// ['red', 'blue', 'yellow', 'green', 'pink', 'orange', 'brown']

This is great as long as you know the depth but what can we do if we’re unsure? We can pass Infinity as the depth argument. Here’s an example using that:

const colors = [
  ['red', ['blue']],
  ['green', ['pink', ['orange', ['brown']]]],
]

const flatColors = colors.flat(Infinity)

console.log(flatColors)

// ['red', 'blue', 'green', 'pink', 'orange', 'brown']

If you need to support internet explorer you won’t be able to use this method so we need another solution. Using concat and the spread operator we can recreate the result like so:

const colors = [
  ['red', 'blue'],
  ['green', 'pink'],
]
const flatten = arr => [].concat(...arr)

const flatColors = flatten(colors)

console.log(flatColors)

// ['red', 'blue', 'green', 'pink']


Written by Fraser Hamilton a full stack developer based out of Edinburgh, Scotland.

© 2020, Fraser Hamilton