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The ABCs of Java Identifiers: Naming Conventions and Rules


In Java, as in any programming language, the way you name your variables, classes, and methods—your identifiers—plays a vital role in the readability and maintainability of your code. Let’s unpack the rules and best practices for naming identifiers in Java.

What is an Identifier in Java?

An identifier is a name given to a variable, class, method, or other entity to distinguish it from others. Identifiers are the user-defined names given to the program elements.

Rules for Java Identifiers

Java has a specific set of rules for what constitutes a legal identifier:

  1. Alphanumeric Characters: Identifiers can only contain letters, digits, underscores (_), and dollar signs ($).
  2. Starting Character: An identifier can start with a letter, underscore, or dollar sign but not with a digit 🎯.
  3. No Reserved Words: Identifiers cannot be Java reserved words or keywords like int, class, etc.
  4. No Special Characters: Characters like spaces, plus signs (+), minus signs (-), and periods (.) are not allowed.

Best Practices for Naming Identifiers

While the rules tell us what’s legal, the best practices guide us to make identifiers useful:

  1. Use Meaningful Names: Identifiers should represent the meaning of the variable or method function.
  2. Start Classes With Upper Case: Class names typically use PascalCase.
  3. Variables and Methods in Lower Case: Start these identifiers with a lower case, using camelCase for multi-word names.
  4. Constants in Upper Case: Constants are typically in UPPER_CASE, separated by underscores.

Legal: userID, totalAmount, EMPLOYEE_NUMBER, _tempVar
Illegal: 123abc, java-class, !userName

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Naming variables with only one character, like x, can be confusing unless used for common conventions like loop indices.
  • Overly long names can be as difficult to read as too-short ones.


Choosing the right identifier is not just about adhering to rules; it’s about writing clear and understandable code. When you name your identifiers, think about the next person who might read your code – or even yourself in six months. Will you all understand what a was for, or would accountBalance save future headaches?

Call to Action

Review your recent code. Are your identifiers clear and following both Java’s rules and the best practices? Share your identifier naming strategies or questions below, and let’s learn from each other!

This template provides a clear structure for your blog, ensuring that it’s informative for beginners and serves as a good reminder for seasoned programmers. Tailor the content as per the tone and depth appropriate for your audience.



About Author

As Neelabh Singh, I am a Senior Software Engineer with 6.6 years of experience, specializing in Java technologies, Microservices, AWS, Algorithms, and Data Structures. I am also a technology blogger and an active participant in several online coding communities.

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