Can Enum Have Values Other Than Integers C

C++ Programming

As a developer, I’ve often wondered about the versatility of enums in C. So, can enum have values other than integers in C? Let’s dive into this interesting aspect of C programming.

Understanding Enums in C

Enums, short for enumerations, are a user-defined data type in C used to assign names to integral constants, thereby creating a new data type. By default, enums in C are of type int and they are used to make the code more readable and maintainable by assigning names to integral constants. This allows us to define a set of related named constants, which represent integer values, making the code more organized and easier to understand.

However, when it comes to assigning values other than integers to enums in C, the language does not directly support this functionality. Enums are essentially a way to map names to a set of integers, and they are not designed to hold non-integer values by default.

Working Around the Limitation

While C enums have this limitation, it is still possible to achieve the desired effect of having enums with values other than integers by using preprocessor directives and conditional compilation. By using #define statements, we can assign any desired value to a symbolic constant, effectively mimicking the behavior of non-integer values in enums.

For example:

#define MY_ENUM_VALUE "example"

This approach allows us to work around the restriction and gives a semblance of having non-integer values in enums.

Considerations and Best Practices

It’s important to keep in mind that while the workaround using #define statements can serve the purpose in certain scenarios, it can also lead to code that is harder to read and maintain. Additionally, using non-integer values in enums may not align with the standard use case and may introduce complexity that could be avoided by sticking to the traditional approach of using integers in enums.


While C enums are inherently limited to holding integer values, there are ways to simulate non-integer values through preprocessor directives. However, it’s crucial to carefully consider the trade-offs and potential impact on code readability and maintainability before implementing such workarounds.