Dynamic vs Inline RegExp performance in JavaScript

Nowadays, answers given here are not entirely complete/correct.

Starting from ES5, the literal syntax behavior is the same as RegExp() syntax regarding object creation: both of them creates a new RegExp object every time code path hits an expression in which they are taking part.

Therefore, the only difference between them now is how often that regexp is compiled:

  • With literal syntax – one time during initial code parsing and
  • With RegExp() syntax – every time new object gets created

See, for instance, Stoyan Stefanov’s JavaScript Patterns book:

Another distinction between the regular expression literal and the
constructor is that the literal creates an object only once during
parse time. If you create the same regular expression in a loop, the
previously created object will be returned with all its properties
(such as lastIndex) already set from the first time. Consider the
following example as an illustration of how the same object is
returned twice.

function getRE() {
    var re = /[a-z]/;
    re.foo = "bar";
    return re;

var reg = getRE(),
    re2 = getRE();

console.log(reg === re2); // true
reg.foo = "baz";
console.log(re2.foo); // "baz"

This behavior has changed in ES5 and the literal also creates new objects. The behavior has also been corrected in many browser
environments, so it’s not to be relied on.

If you run this sample in all modern browsers or NodeJS, you get the following instead:


Meaning that every time you’re calling the getRE() function, a new RegExp object is created even with literal syntax approach.

The above not only explains why you shouldn’t use the RegExp() for immutable regexps (it’s very well known performance issue today), but also explains:

(I am more surprised that inlineRegExp and storedRegExp have different

The storedRegExp is about 5 – 20% percent faster across browsers than inlineRegExp because there is no overhead of creating (and garbage collecting) a new RegExp object every time.

Always create your immutable regexps with literal syntax and cache it if it’s to be re-used. In other words, don’t rely on that difference in behavior in envs below ES5, and continue caching appropriately in envs above.

Why literal syntax? It has some advantages comparing to constructor syntax:

  1. It is shorter and doesn’t force you to think in terms of class-like
  2. When using the RegExp() constructor, you also need to escape quotes and double-escape backslashes. It makes regular expressions
    that are hard to read and understand by their nature even more harder.

(Free citation from the same Stoyan Stefanov’s JavaScript Patterns book).
Hence, it’s always a good idea to stick with the literal syntax, unless your regexp isn’t known at the compile time.

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