I seem to recall that there is a specific term for an accessor method that returns a Boolean value but it escapes me. For example: typical methods such as:

class Example {
    bool isDirty();
    bool hasChildren();
    bool isValid(SomeType obj);

I will also settle for such a term as applied to a non-member functions.

  • While 'is' is generally good enough, it is important to not use 'not' after 'is' otherwise the meaning becomes confusing, for example this obviously bad: isNotGood.
    – NoChance
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 13:40
  • 1
    Yes thanks but what I am really looking for is not a naming convention but rather a term for the whole class of these simple boolean member functions. Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 13:44
  • 1
    "Accessor methods that return booleans." Not everything needs a name.
    – Blrfl
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 14:55
  • @Emmad: I think list.isNotEmpty() is more readable than !list.isEmpty()
    – Codism
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 21:02
  • @Codism, both are readable, in my case, the 'not' part takes more brain cells to figure :)
    – NoChance
    Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 7:47

3 Answers 3


A function from some type T to Boolean is usually called a predicate, and if you want to make clear that it is a method of an object, i.e. that it takes the implicit this argument in addition to its other arguments, then you could call it a predicate method. If it takes no other arguments except the implicit this argument, then you can call it a predicate property.

See for example Predicate<T> in .NET and e.g. javax.sql.rowset.Predicate or com.google.common.base.Predicate in Java.

  • 1
    +1: Shout out to David Parnas www-public.int-evry.fr/~gibson/Teaching/MAT7003/ReadingMaterial/…
    – snakehiss
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 18:19
  • why the "no other arguments" thing? i'd say that isBiggerThan(x) is a predicate
    – Javier
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 19:06
  • Yes predicate is the term I had forgotten... Thanks for refreshing my memory! Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 21:11
  • FYI: In Common Lisp the name of predicate functions (should) end with the letter p - so that everyone knows exactly what it is. In languages like Ruby and Clojure the convention is to end the name with a questionmark.
    – Torbjørn
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 22:09
  • @Javier: you're right. I think predicate property would be a better term for that. I'll change the answer. Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 1:48

If the method is simply returning an attribute of the object, I would call it an accessor, since it is simply used to access a private member variable of the object.

If the method performs some kind of computation or contains logic (beyond the possibility of logging or validation), it's simply a method. It's no different than a method that performs any other operations that use the state of the object and return a value that's not a boolean.

If the method preforms some special task, such as checking equality or validity, I might want to refer to it by what it does, such as calling it a "validator method" or "equality method". Those names is a bit shorter than saying "a method that checks the validity of the object" or "a method that checks the equality of this object against another".

Not everything has a special name, though. Call it by what it is.


A switch (which is ambiguous), a flag, a bool, a state... Nothing I can think of is specific to a getter...

Different environments have different conventions...

Ruby: some_object.is_something?

ObjC: [someObject isSomething]

So I guess I support the "is doctrine"...

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