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Maiko Miyazaki
Maiko Miyazaki

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Newbie's Cheatsheet: Commonly used verbs for naming functions, methods and variables

Do you follow your instinct when choosing a verb in your function?

Do you use a number of synonyms for the same purpose inconsistently?

If the answer is yes, you are not the only one.

In order to write a clean code, or at least to attempt it, we need to know what words are commonly used so that we can use them, and people can understand easier what we are trying to do.

At the same time, we need to stick with one word for one concept rather than using synonyms inconsistently.

In this post, I'll summarise commonly used verbs found in programming books and Github regardless of the type of programming language, so we can find the best-suited verbs for our own needs.

On the tables below, we'll see 5 rows:

  • The verb
  • The number of times the verb is written on Github to give us some ideas on how commonly it's used
  • Its general definition
  • Examples
  • Synonyms to avoid using to express the same concept

Just bear with me, this is not a complete list of common words, so please do let me know in the comment if you find some of the definition is too biased on certain programming languages. I'll also be grateful if you could teach me any other verbs that you think it's common!

I hope this post helps us, newbies choose a suitable verb and stick to it.

Table of Contents

1️⃣ Alteration
2️⃣ Creation
3️⃣ Establishment
4️⃣ Obtainment
5️⃣ True or False Statement
6️⃣ Conclusion

1. Alteration

Verb Written
on Github
Definition Examples Synonyms
to avoid
set 2B Often used to put data in an existing resource such as an attribute of an object. set_name(), set_store_id()
change 668M Often used when a whole thing, such as image, is replaced by something else change_image(), change_colour() edit
edit 325M Often used same as change. It could be used especially when action is responsible for rendering the view. edit_title(), edit_record() change
update 739M Often used when one or more of the components is updated as a result, and something new could also be added. update_file()
add 1B Often used to add something into a group of the things. add_item(), add_member() append
append 287M Often used same as add. It could be used when it does not modify the original group of things but produce the new group. append_item(), append_element() add
remove 824M Often used when a given thing is removed from a group of the things. remove_record(), remove_item() delete
delete 455M Often used same as remove, but it could also render nonrecoverable. delete_record(), delete_item() remove
save 478M Often used when preserving data to avoid loss. save_json(), save_order() store
store 396M Often used the same way as save. store_json(), store_order() save
disable 586M Often used to configure a resource an unavailable or inactive state. disable_user() hide
hide 237M Often has the same intention as disable, by hiding it. hide_field() disable
split 276M Used when separating parts of a resource. split_table(), split_group() separate
separate 151M Often used the same way as the verb split. separate_table(), separate_group() split
merge 312M Often used when creating a single resource from multiple resource. merge_records(),  merge_tables() join
join 220M It can be used in a same way as merge. join_records(),  join_tables() merge

2. Creation

Verb Written
on Github
Definition Examples Confusing
create 1B Used when creating a resource. create_package(), create_directory() make, generate
make 797M Often used in a same way as create. make_package(), make_statement() create, generate
generate 286M Often used in a same way as create. generate_directory(), generate_statement() create, make
copy 1B Used when creating a resource with the same structure and data as the original one. copy_file(), copy_graph() clone
clone 147M Could be used in a same way as copy. clone_file(), clone_graph() copy

3. Establishment

Verb Written
on Github
Definition Examples Confusing
start 1B Generally used when initiating an operation. start_listening() begin
begin 342M Often used in a same way as start. begin_listening() start
open 854M Used when changing state of a resource to make it accessible or usable. open_file()

4. Obtainment

Verb Written
on Github
Definition Examples Confusing
get 2B Generally used to obtain a resource. get_data(),  get_store_id() fetch, retrieve
fetch 146M Can be used in a same way as get. fetch_data(), fetch_store_id() get, retrieve
retrieve 116M Can be used in a same way as get or fetch retrieve_data(), retrieve_store_id() get, fetch
read 1B Used when acquiring data from a source. read_file()
find 672M Used when looking for an unknown data in a container. find_element(), find_keyword() search
search 438M Generally used in a same way as find. It may refer to look for an unknown data from multiple containers. search_element(), search_keyword() find
close 492M Used when changing state of a resource to make it inaccessible or unusable. close_file()

5. True or False Statement

Verb Written
on Github
Definition Examples
is 3B Used when defining state of a resource. Method: is_available(), is_correct()
Variables: name_is_available, date_is_correct
has 1B Used to define whether a resource contains a certain data. Method: has_name(), has_date()
Variables: person_has_name, course_has_date
can 2B Used to define a certain ability of a resource. can_load(), can_create()
should 1B Used to define a certain obligation of a resource. should_render(), should_print_message()

6. Conclusion

Writing clean code is not a skill that we can obtain overnight. But at the same time, I believe that we can improve the quality of code significantly and constantly by learning the wisdom of other people's clean code. To write this bost, I gained so many ideas from the book Clean Code written by Robert C. Martin and many codes on Github. I especially recommend the book for anyone who is just started coding. Many of the contents might seem going too far for newbies, but I am certain that this book will be my forever reference for my career as a developer.

Thanks to these people who share their own hard work!

Thanks for reading. If you have any opinion or question, please leave a comment below! In the meantime, please follow me on Linkedin @Maiko Miyazaki or Twitter @Maiko Miyazaki

Top comments (4)

ninofiliu profile image
Nino Filiu

Thanks for this quality reference document!

This strongly echoes this part of Clean Code about picking one word per concept:

Pick one word for one abstract concept and stick with it. For instance, [...] it’s confusing to have a controller and a manager and a driver in the same code base. What is the essential difference between a DeviceManager and a ProtocolController? Why are both not controllers or both not managers? Are they both drivers really? The name leads you to expect two objects that have very different type as well as having different classes.

A consistent lexicon is a great boon to the programmers who must use your code.

maikomiyazaki profile image
Maiko Miyazaki

Thank you for your words, Nino! That section of the book definitely convinced me why consistent word of choice is the key. I'm also grateful to know that the book is fully available as a PDF! Thanks for sharing your ideas and the link!

detzam profile image

Simple idea in naming:
Name your variables based on what information it will contain
Name your functions/methods based on wharmt they do
A function/method will go just one thing, but it can call another function/method which will help it do its job inside it

maikomiyazaki profile image
Maiko Miyazaki

Your explanation is very clean and neat. It's easy to understand how to differentiate the names between functions, methods and variables! Thank you for sharing your tips!