base (version 3.2.1)

nchar: Count the Number of Characters (or Bytes or Width)


nchar takes a character vector as an argument and returns a vector whose elements contain the sizes of the corresponding elements of x.

nzchar is a fast way to find out if elements of a character vector are non-empty strings.


nchar(x, type = "chars", allowNA = FALSE, keepNA = FALSE)
nzchar(x, keepNA = FALSE)


character vector, or a vector to be coerced to a character vector. Giving a factor is an error.
character string: partial matching to one of c("bytes", "chars", "width"). See ‘Details’.
logical: should NA be returned for invalid multibyte strings or "bytes"-encoded strings (rather than throwing an error)?
logical: should NA be returned where ever x is NA? If false, the (implicit or explicit) default for nzchar() and for R versions $<=$ 3.2.x,="" nchar() returns 2, as that is the number of printing characters used when strings are written to output, and nzchar() is TRUE. From R version 3.3.0 on, for nchar() only, the default will be NA, which means to use keepNA = TRUE unless type is "width". Used to be (implicitly) hard coded to FALSE in R versions $


For nchar, an integer vector giving the sizes of each element. For missing values (i.e., NA, i.e., NA_character_), nchar() returns NA_integer_ if keepNA is true, and 2, the number of printing characters, if false.If allowNA = TRUE and an element is detected as invalid in a multi-byte character set such as UTF-8, its number of characters and the width will be NA. Otherwise the number of characters will be non-negative, so !, "chars", TRUE)) is a test of validity.A character string marked with "bytes" encoding (see Encoding) has a number of bytes, but neither a known number of characters nor a width, so the latter two types are NA if allowNA = TRUE, otherwise an error.Names, dims and dimnames are copied from the input.For nzchar, a logical vector of the same length as x, true if and only if the element has non-zero length; if the element is NA, nzchar() is true when keepNA is false, as by default, and NA otherwise.


The ‘size’ of a character string can be measured in one of three ways (corresponding to the type argument):
The number of bytes needed to store the string (plus in C a final terminator which is not counted).

The number of human-readable characters.

The number of columns cat will use to print the string in a monospaced font. The same as chars if this cannot be calculated.

These will often be the same, and almost always will be in single-byte locales (but note how type may influence NA treatment for keepNA = NA). There will be differences between the first two with multibyte character sequences, e.g.\ifelse{latex}{\out{~}}{ } in UTF-8 locales.

The internal equivalent of the default method of as.character is performed on x (so there is no method dispatch). If you want to operate on non-vector objects passing them through deparse first will be required.


Becker, R. A., Chambers, J. M. and Wilks, A. R. (1988) The New S Language. Wadsworth & Brooks/Cole.

See Also

strwidth giving width of strings for plotting; paste, substr, strsplit


Run this code
x <- c("asfef", "qwerty", "yuiop[", "b", "stuff.blah.yech")
# 5  6  6  1 15

# 18 17  <-- unless mean differs from base::mean

x[3] <- NA; x
nchar(x, keepNA= TRUE) #  5  6 NA  1 15
nchar(x, keepNA=FALSE) #  5  6  2  1 15
stopifnot(identical(nchar(x, "w", keepNA = NA),
                    nchar(x,      keepNA = FALSE)),
          identical(,, keepNA=NA))))

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