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Posted 16 Mar 2019
Licenced MIT

Enum to String

, 16 Mar 2019
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How to convert an enum to a string value

A fellow engineer at work asked me today how to convert an enum to a string value. This is what I came up with:

#include <iostream>
#include <map>
#include <cassert>

enum class MyEnum : int

const char* MyEnumToString(MyEnum e)
    using MapType = std::map<MyEnum, const char*>;
    static const MapType kMap =
        { MyEnum::V1, "V1" },
        { MyEnum::V2, "V2" },
        { MyEnum::V3, "V3" },
    assert(kMap.size() == (int)MyEnum::SIZE);

int main(int argc, char** argv)
    std::cout << MyEnumToString(MyEnum::V1) << std::endl;
    std::cout << MyEnumToString(MyEnum::V2) << std::endl;
    std::cout << MyEnumToString(MyEnum::V3) << std::endl;
    return 1;

MyEnumToString function has a static map of MyEnum to const char*. In the assert, it checks that the MyEnum::SIZE is equal to the size of the map: so you don’t forget to update the map when you update MyEnum with a new entry. 😉

For larger enums, would unordered_map be a better choice for the mapping data structure in terms of performance? Probably.


Several people here and on reddit suggested that the use of std::map or even std::unordered_map is an overkill. I agree. Though it is a must for non continuous enums (ones that do not start at 0 and do not increment by 1). Below is an updated MyEnumToString function which offers much faster conversion. It uses std::array to hold the string values.

const char* MyEnumToString(MyEnum e)
    using MapType = std::array<const char*, (size_t)MyEnum::SIZE>;
    static const MapType kMap =
    static_assert(kMap.size() == (size_t)MyEnum::SIZE);


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The MIT License


About the Author

Martin Vorbrodt
Software Developer (Senior)
United States United States
No Biography provided

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