Function Literals

To simplify how we define functions, we can use function literals. A function literal is an unnamed function that can be treated as a value: we can call them, assign them as variables, pass them as arguments, and return them from a function as we could with any other value.

We’ll be going over two types of function literals: anonymous functions and lambda expressions. While anonymous functions and lambda expressions serve the same purpose, they use a slightly different syntax.

To start, let’s create an anonymous function stored in a variable called quotient that returns the quotient of two numbers:

val quotient = fun(num1: Int, num2: Int): Double { return num1 / num2 }
  • The anonymous function is contained in a variable called quotient.
  • The fun keyword is placed after the assignment operator and is not followed by a name (hence the anonymous).
  • quotient has a function type of (Double, Double) -> Double.

The function type describes the argument type and return type of the anonymous function. The arguments are contained within parentheses while the return type is stated after ->. In this case, the anonymous function takes in two Doubles and returns a single Double.

To call this anonymous function, we’ll simply call quotient like we would any other variable:

println(quotient(10, 5)) // Prints: 2

A lambda expression is very similar to an anonymous function; however, its concise syntax makes lambda expressions a more popular option amongst programmers. It’s suggested to use a lambda expression over an anonymous function when creating a function with only one expression.

If we were to recreate our quotient variable using a lambda expression, our code would look like this:

val quotient = { num1: Int, num2: Int -> num1 / num2 } println(quotient(10, 5)) // Prints: 2
  • The lambda expression is contained within brackets: { and }
  • We state the parameter names as well as their data types.
  • The return value num1 / num2 is placed after the -> symbol.
  • Including the return type is optional because the compiler can use type inference to deduce the data type of the return value.

To learn more about anonymous functions and lambda expressions, check out the Kotlin Language Guide.



Working at a landscape company, a customer asks for grass to cover the area of their triangle-shaped yard.

Create a variable called area and sets its value to an anonymous function that accepts two Int arguments: base and height and returns an Int value.

The return value should equal (base * height) / 2.

Use println() to output the value of area(15, 19).


The customer comes back and asks for you to build a fence around their garden.

Create a variable called perimeter and sets its value to a lambda expression that accepts two Int values called side1 and side2 and returns an Int value.

The return value will equal the value of side1 + side2 times 2.

Use println() to output the value of perimeter(15, 24).

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