Mapped vs Indexed Access types in TypeScript

23 April 2024

A quick example on how to improve type checking in your TypeScript code by using a mapped type instead of an indexed access type.

TypeScript provides a nice level of runtime safety, well... assuming that you have strict": true and "noUncheckedIndexedAccess": true configured (now all you have to do is write code that compiles without errors :).

Here's an abstract example: Fetching a value from an object and then using the value as a key to access a value in another object, where the keys are known. As a relative newcomer to the language, I found myself writing a lot of code just to satisfy the compiler, checking for undefined values, which turned out to be unnecessary.

Here's a concrete example: Getting the opposite of a direction and translate it into something readable. My first instinct here was to reach for an indexed access type, and did the following:

type Direction = "n" | "s" | "w" | "e";
const oppositeDirections: {
[key: string]: Direction
} = {
s: "n",
n: "s",
e: "w",
w: "e"
const translations = {
n: "north",
s: "south",
w: "west",
e: "east"
let north: Direction = "n";
`The opposite of ${translations[north]} is ${

While this may seem intuitive at first, it will unfortunately give you the following error: Type 'undefined' cannot be used as an index type. because TypeScript doesn't know if oppositeDirection will actually map to an actual value. To fix this, you could first make sure that oppositeDirection[north] isn't undefined.

let north: direction = "n";
let oppositeDirection = oppositeDirections[north];
if (oppositeDireciton) {
`The opposite of ${translations[north]} is ${translations[oppositeDireciton]}`

This feels kind of annoying, as it requires an extra runtime check only to satisfy the TypeScript compiler. In this case we know that oppositeDirection is always going to return a direction (the way that we typed it with a string union).

The solution? Use a Mapped Type instead:

const oppositeDirections: { [K in Direction]: Direction } = {
n: "s",
s: "n",
w: "e",
e: "w",

With a mapped type the TypeScript compiler will know exactly what properties will exist on the object ahead of time. Therefore you can safely access the property with no extra conditional check needed.


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Hi, thanks for reading!

Iā€™m Daniel, Software Engineer from Sweden. If you have any questions regarding this article please reach out to me on Twitter. You can also find me on GitHub.

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