What is “context” in jQuery selector?

There IS a difference, and it is NOT subtle as others believe.

EDIT: Layman’s example of each:

  • Call all the blue houses in town (context), if Jane is there, tip off her hat.
  • Call all the buildings in town (no context yet). IF it is a blue house (add context) and Jane is there, tip off her hat.

Let’s break down what it selects.

First we have: Context selector http://api.jquery.com/jQuery/#jQuery-selector-context

$('input.current_title', '#storePreferences').prop('disabled', false);

This says: use a selector in context. http://api.jquery.com/jQuery/#jQuery-selector-context

While this form MIGHT work, it should really be:

$('input.current_title', $('#storePreferences')).prop('disabled', false);


var myContext = $('#storePreferences');
$('input.current_title', myContext).prop('disabled', false);

This meets the requirement for a context selector being met: “A DOM Element, Document, or jQuery to use as context”.

This says: using the context, find inside that the selector. An equivalent would be:

$('#storePreferences').find('input.current_title').prop('disabled', false);

Which is what happens internally. Find '#storePreferences' and in that find all the 'input.current_title' matching elements.

Then we have: Descendant Selector

$('#storePreferences input.current_title').prop('disabled', false);

This is a Descendant Selector (“ancestor descendant”) http://api.jquery.com/descendant-selector/ which says: find all the input.current_title elements inside the #storePreferences element. THIS IS WHERE IT GETS TRICKY! – that is EXACTLY what it does –

finds ALL the input.current_title (anywhere), then finds those INSIDE the #storePreferences element.

Thus, we run into jQuerys’ Sizzle right to left selector – so it initially finds MORE(potentially) than it needs which could be a performance hit/issue.

Thus the form of:

$('#storePreferences').find('input.current_title').prop('disabled', false);

would perform better than the Descendant version most likely.

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