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An atom is a constant which name is its value. Every atom starts with colon and ends with word or operator known for Elixir. Things to remember when creating an atom:

  • must be a sequence of UTF-8 letters,

  • might consist of digits,

  • might include the underscore,

  • might include @,

  • might end with ? or !,

  • can be created with any string when enclosed within quotes.

Example of atoms:

:hello, :"hello world", :+, :===, :exists?

Two atoms with the same naming always represent the same value.

iex> :hello == :hello
iex> :hello == :"hello"
iex> :hello == :"hello world"

You can check if given value is atom with is_atom/1 function:

iex> is_atom :hello
iex> is_atom "hello"
iex> is_atom :"hello"

You'll be using atoms very often to tag values.

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