list initialization

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Initializes an object from braced-init-list



T object { arg1, arg2, ... }; (1)
T { arg1, arg2, ... }; (2)
new T { arg1, arg2, ... }; (3)
return { arg1, arg2, ... } ; (4)
function( { arg1, arg2, ... } ) ; (5)
object[ { arg1, arg2, ... } ] ; (6)
T( { arg1, arg2, ... } ) (7)
Class { T member = { arg1, arg2, ... }; }; (8)
Class::Class() : member{arg1, arg2, ...} {... (9)
T object = {arg1, arg2, ...}; (10)


List initialization is performed in the following situations:

1) initialization of a named variable with a brace-enclosed list of expressions or nested lists (braced-init-list)
2) initialization of an unnamed temporary with a braced-init-list
3) initialization of an object with dynamic storage duration with a new-expression, where the initializer is a brace-init-list
4) in a return statement with braced-init-list used as the return expression
5) in a function call expression, with braced-init-list used as an argument
6) in a subscript expression with a user-defined operator[]
7) in a functional cast expression or other direct-initialization, with braced-init-list used as the constructor argument
8) in a non-static data member initializer
9) in a constructor initializer list
10) on the right-hand-side of the equals sign (similar to copy-initialization)

The effects of list initialization of an object of type T are:

  • If the braced-init-list is empty and T is a class type with a default constructor, value-initialization is performed.
  • Otherwise, if T is a specialization of std::initializer_list, a new std::initializer_list object of the same type is constructed and used to direct-initialize or copy-initialize the object of type T, depending on context.
  • Otherwise, the constuctors of T are considered, in two phases:
  • All constructors that take std::initializer_list as the only argument, or as the first argument if the remaining arguments have default values, are examined, and matched by overload resolution against a single argument of type std::initializer_list
  • If the previous stage does not produce a match, all constructors of T participate in overload resolution against the set of arguments that consists of the elements of the braced-init-list, with the restriction that only narrowing conversions are allowed. If this stage produces an explicit constructor as the best match for a copy-list-initialization, compilation fails (note, in simple copy-initialization, explicit constructors are not considered at all)
  • Otherwise, if T is reference type, a prvalue temporary of the referenced type is list-initialized, and the reference is bound to that temporary.
  • Otherwise, if the braced-init-list has only one element, T is direct-initialized or copy-initialized, depending on context, except that narrowing conversions are not allowed.

Narrowing conversions

list-initialization limits the allowed implicit conversions by prohibiting the following:

  • conversion from a floating-point type to an integer type
  • conversion from a long double to double or to float and conversion from double to float, except where the source is a constant expression whose value can be stored exactly in the target type
  • conversion from integer or unscoped enumeration type to integer type that cannot represent all values of the original, except where source is a constant expression whose value can be stored exactly in the target type


Braced-init-list is not an expression and has no type on its own: for example, when calling a function template, braced-init-list argument cannot be used for template type deduction. A special exception is made for the keyword auto, which deduces any braced-init-list as std::initializer_list.


#include <iostream>
#include <vector>
#include <map>
#include <string>
struct Foo {
    std::vector<int> mem = {1,2,3}; // list-initialization of a non-static member
    std::vector<int> mem2;
    Foo() : mem2{-1, -2, -3} {} // list-initialization of a member in constructor
std::pair<std::string, std::string> f(std::pair<std::string, std::string> p)
    return {p.second, p.first}; // list-initialization in return statement
int main()
    int n0{};     // value-initialization (to zero)
    int n1{1};    // direct-list-initialization
    std::string s1{'a', 'b', 'c', 'd'}; // initializer-list constructor call
    std::string s2{s1, 2, 2};           // regular constructor call
    std::string s3{0x61, 'a'}; // initializer-list ctor is preferred to (int, char)
    int n2 = {1}; // copy-list-initialization
    double d = double{1.2}; // list-initialization of a temporary, then copy-init
    std::map<int, std::string> m = { // nested list-initialization
           {1, "a"},
           {2, {'a', 'b', 'c'} },
           {3, s1}
    std::cout << f({"hello", "world"}).first // list-initialization in function call
              << '\n';
    const int (&ar)[2] = {1,2}; // binds a lvalue reference to a temporary array
    int&& r1 = {1}; // binds a rvalue reference to a temporary int
//  int& r2 = {2}; // error: cannot bind rvalue to a non-const lvalue ref
//  int bad{1.0}; // error: narrowing conversion
    unsigned char uc1{10}; // okay
//  unsigned char uc2{-1}; // error: narrowing conversion
    Foo f;
    std::cout << n0 << ' ' << n1 << ' ' << n2 << '\n'
              << s1 << ' ' << s2 << ' ' << s3 << '\n';
    for(auto p: m)
        std::cout << p.first << ' ' << p.second << '\n';
    for(auto n: f.mem)
        std::cout << n << ' ';
    for(auto n: f.mem2)
        std::cout << n << ' ';


0 1 1
abcd cd aa
1 a
2 abc
3 abcd
1 2 3 -1 -2 -3

See also