Skip to content


Repository files navigation


Safer universal equivalence for Scala & Scala.JS. (zero-dependency)

Created: Feb 2015.
Open-Sourced: Apr 2016.


In Scala, all values and objects have the following methods:

  • equals(Any): Boolean
  • ==(Any): Boolean
  • !=(Any): Boolean

This means that you can perform nonsensical comparisons that, at compile-time, you know will fail.

You're likely to quickly detect this kind of errors when you're writing them for the first time, but the larger problems are:

  • valid comparisons becoming invalid after refactoring your data.
  • calling a method that expects universal equality to hold with a data type in which it doesn't (eg. a method that uses Set under the hood).

It's a breeding ground for bugs.

But Scalactic/Scalaz/Cats/X already has an Equal class

This isn't a replacement for the typical Equal typeclass you find in other libraries. Those define methods of equality, where is this provides a proof that the underlying types' .equals(Any): Boolean implementation correctly defines the equality. For example, in a project of mine, I use UnivEq for about 95% of data and scalaz.Equal for the remaining 5%.

Why distinguish? Knowing that universal quality holds is a useful property in its own right. It means a more efficient equals implementation because typeclass instances aren't used for comparison, which means they're dead code and can be optimised away along with their construction if def or lazy vals. Secondly 99.99% of classes with sensible .equals also have sensible .hashCode implementations which means it's a good constraint to apply to methods that will depend on it (eg. if you call .toSet).

Provided Here

This library contains:

  • A typeclass UnivEq[A].
  • A macro to derive instances for your types.
  • Compilation error if a future change to your data types' args or their types, lose universal equality.
  • Proofs for most built-in Scala & Java types.
  • Ops ==*/!=* to be used instead of ==/!= so that incorrect type comparison yields compilation error.
  • A few helper methods that provide safety during construction of maps and sets.
  • Optional modules for Scalaz and Cats.


import japgolly.univeq._

case class Foo[A](name: String, value: Option[A])

// This will fail at compile-time.
// It doesn't hold for all A...
//implicit def fooUnivEq[A]: UnivEq[Foo[A]] = UnivEq.derive

// ...It only holds when A has universal equivalence.
implicit def fooUnivEq[A: UnivEq]: UnivEq[Foo[A]] = UnivEq.derive

// Let's create data with & without universal equivalence
trait Whatever
val nope = Foo("nope", Some(new Whatever{}))
val good = Foo("yay", Some(123))

nope ==* nope // This will fail at compile-time.
nope ==* good // This will fail at compile-time.
good ==* good // This is ok.

// Similarly, if you made a function like:
def countUnique[A: UnivEq](as: A*): Int =

countUnique(nope, nope) // This will fail at compile-time.
countUnique(good, good) // This is ok.


No dependencies:
// Your SBT
libraryDependencies += "com.github.japgolly.univeq" %%% "univeq" % "1.5.0"
// Your code
import japgolly.univeq._
// Your SBT
libraryDependencies += "com.github.japgolly.univeq" %%% "univeq-cats" % "1.3.0"
// Your code
import japgolly.univeq.UnivEqCats._


  • Create instances for your own types like this:

    implicit def xxxxxxUnivEq[A: UnivEq]: UnivEq[Xxxxxx[A]] = UnivEq.derive
  • Change UnivEq.derive to UnivEq.deriveDebug to display derivation details.

  • If needed, you can create instances with UnivEq.force to tell the compiler to take your word.

  • Use ==*/!=* in place of ==/!=.

  • Add : UnivEq to type params that need it.

Future Work

  • Get rid of the ==*/!=*; write a compiler plugin that checks for UnivEq at each ==/!=.
  • Add a separate HashCode typeclass instead of just using UnivEq for maps, sets and similar.

Note: I'm not working on these at the moment, but they'd be fantastic contributions.


If you like what I do —my OSS libraries, my contributions to other OSS libs, my programming blog— and you'd like to support me, more content, more lib maintenance, please become a patron! I do all my OSS work unpaid so showing your support will make a big difference.