Ruby Names

Ruby Names are used to refer to constants, variables, methods, classes, and modules. The first character of a name helps Ruby to distinguish its intended use. Certain names, are reserved words and should not be used as variable, method, class, or module name. Lowercase letter means the characters "a" through "z". Uppercase letter means ''A'' through ''Z,'' and digit means "0" through "9". A name is an uppercase letter, lowercase letter, or an underscore ("_"), followed by Name characters (this is any combination of upper- and lowercase letters, underscore and digits).


Variables in Ruby can contain data of any type. You can use variables in your Ruby programs without any declarations. Variable name itself denotes its scope (local, global, instance, etc.).

  • A local variable (declared within an object) name consists of a lowercase letter (or an underscore) followed by name characters (sunil, _z, hit_and_run).
  • An instance variable (declared within an object always "belongs to" whatever object self refers to) name starts with an ''at'' sign (''@'') followed by a name (@sign, @_, @Counter).
  • A class variable (declared within a class) name starts with two ''at'' signs (''@@'') followed by a name (@@sign, @@_, @@Counter). A class variable is shared among all objects of a class. Only one copy of a particular class variable exists for a given class. Class variables used at the top level are defined in Object and behave like global variables. Class variables are rarely used in Ruby programs.
  • Global variables start with a dollar sign (''$'') followed by name characters. A global variable name can be formed using ''$-'' followed by any single character ($counter, $COUNTER, $-x). Ruby defines a number of global variables that include other punctuation characters, such as $_ and $-K.


A constant name starts with an uppercase letter followed by name characters. Class names and module names are constants, and follow the constant naming conventions. Examples: module MyMath, PI=3.1416, class MyPune.

Method Names

Method names should begin with a lowercase letter (or an underscore). "?", "!" and "=" are the only weird characters allowed as method name suffixes (! or bang labels a method as dangerous-specifically, as the dangerous equivalent of a method with the same name but without the bang. More on Bang methods later.).

The Ruby convention is to use underscores to separate words in a multiword method or variable name. By convention, most constants are written in all uppercase with underscores to separate words, LIKE_THIS. Ruby class and module names are also constants, but they are conventionally written using initial capital letters and camel case, LikeThis.
It's to be noted that any given variable can at different times hold references to objects of many different types. A Ruby constant is also a reference to an object. Constants are created when they are first assigned to (normally in a class or module definition; they should not be defined in a method - more on constants later). Ruby lets you alter the value of a constant, although this will generate a warning message. Also, variables in Ruby act as "references" to objects, which undergo automatic garbage collection.

An example to show Ruby is dynamically typed - p007dt.rb

The basic types in Ruby are Numeric (subtypes include Fixnum, Integer, and Float), String, Array, Hash, Object, Symbol, Range, and RegExp.

Though we have not learned classes yet, nevertheless, here are some more details about a class called Float.

Float is a sub class of Numeric.

Float objects represent real numbers using the native architecture's double-precision floating point representation.

DIG is a class constant that gives precision of Float in decimal digits. MAX is another class constant that gives the largest Float.

On my PC, the code:

outputs 15. And.

outputs 1.79769313486232e+308

Let us look at Peter Cooper's example in his Beginning Ruby book (never mind if you do not follow the code yet):

By square 64, you're up to placing many trillions of grains of rice on each square!

It proves that Ruby is able to deal with extremely large numbers, and unlike many other programming languages, there are no inconvenient limits. Ruby does this with different classes, one called Fixnum (default) that represents easily managed smaller numbers, and another, aptly called Bignum, that represents "big" numbers Ruby needs to manage internally. Ruby will handle Bignums and Fixnums for you, and you can perform arithmetic and other operations without any problems. Results might vary depending on your system's architecture, but as these changes are handled entirely by Ruby, there's no need to worry.

Ruby doesn't require you to use primitives (data types) when manipulating data of these types - if it looks like an integer, it's probably an integer; if it looks like a string, it's probably a string. The class Object has a method called class that returns the class of an object, for example:

Another example: (Don't worry if you do not understand the code now).

We shall talk about self later on. private_methods is a method of the Object class and sort is a method of the Array class.

In Ruby, everything you manipulate is an object, and the results of those manipulations are themselves objects. There are no primitives or data-types.

Note: The Ruby Logo is Copyright (c) 2006, Yukihiro Matsumoto. I have made extensive references to information, related to Ruby, available in the public domain (wikis and the blogs, articles of various Ruby Gurus), my acknowledgment and thanks to all of them. Much of the material on and in the course at is drawn primarily from the Programming Ruby book, available from The Pragmatic Bookshelf.