Enum in C

Enum in C Language with Examples

In this article, I will discuss the Enum in C Language with Examples. Please read our previous articles discussing the Command Line Arguments in C. As part of this article, you will learn what is Enum in C and when and how to use Enum in C Program with examples.

Enum in C Language:

In C programming, an enumeration (or enum) is a user-defined data type that consists of integral constants. It provides a way to assign symbolic names to integral values, making the code more readable and maintainable. Here’s a detailed explanation of enums in C:

Defining an Enum in C:

An enum is defined using the enum keyword, followed by the name of the enumeration and a list of named integer constants enclosed in curly braces. For example:
enum Color { RED, GREEN, BLUE };
In this example, Color is the name of the enum, and RED, GREEN, and BLUE are its members.

Implicit Values:

By default, the first member of an enum has the value 0, and each subsequent member’s value is incremented by 1. In the above example, RED will be 0, GREEN will be 1, and BLUE will be 2.

Assigning Specific Values:

You can explicitly assign integer values to the members. For instance:
enum Color { RED = 1, GREEN, BLUE };
Here, RED will be 1, GREEN will be 2 (since it follows RED), and BLUE will be 3.

Using Enums:

Enums are typically used to define a set of named constants, making the code easier to read and maintain. For example:
enum Color myColor;
myColor = RED;
This assigns the value of RED to the variable myColor.

Comparison and Assignment:
  • Enum members are of integral types so that they can be compared and assigned like integers.
  • You can also use enums in switch statements, which is a common use case.
Advantages of Enums:
  • Enums increase code readability and maintainability.
  • They ensure type safety by preventing the assignment of invalid values to variables.
Size and Type:
  • The size of an enum type is implementation-defined, but it’s usually the size of an int.
  • In C, enums are not type-safe in the same way as in some other languages like C++. This means that you can assign any integer value to an enum variable, even if it is not one of the defined enum values.
Enum Examples in C Language

Enumerations (enum) in C are a convenient way to associate constant values with names, making your code more readable and maintainable. Here are some examples to illustrate their usage:

Basic Enum Example:

This is a simple enumeration representing the days of the week.

#include <stdio.h>


int main() {
    enum Day today = WEDNESDAY;
    printf("Day number of Wednesday is: %d\n", today);
    return 0;

By default, enum assigns integer values starting from 0, so WEDNESDAY would be 3.

Enum with Assigned Values:

Enumerations can have specific values assigned to each member.

#include <stdio.h>

enum StatusCode { SUCCESS = 0, FAILURE = -1, RUNNING = 1 };

int main() {
    enum StatusCode code = FAILURE;
    printf("Status Code: %d\n", code);
    return 0;

Here, specific values are assigned to the enum members.

Enum Used in Switch Case:

Enums can be used effectively with switch statements.

#include <stdio.h>

enum Color { RED, GREEN, BLUE };

void printColor(enum Color c) {
    switch (c) {
        case RED:
        case GREEN:
        case BLUE:
            printf("Unknown color\n");

int main() {
    enum Color color = GREEN;
    return 0;

This program will print “Green” as the color variable is set to GREEN.

Enum in Structures:

Enums can be used within structures to make them more readable.

#include <stdio.h>

enum Gender { MALE, FEMALE, OTHER };

struct Person {
    char name[50];
    enum Gender gender;

int main() {
    struct Person person1 = {"Alice", FEMALE};
    printf("Name: %s, Gender: %d\n", person1.name, person1.gender);
    return 0;

Here, enum Gender is used to define the gender of a person in the structure.

Typedef with Enum:

Enums can be combined with typedef for easier type declaration.

#include <stdio.h>

typedef enum { ADD, SUBTRACT, MULTIPLY, DIVIDE } Operation;

int main() {
    Operation op = ADD;
    printf("Operation: %d\n", op);
    return 0;

typedef allows the creation of a new type name for the enum, making the code cleaner.

These examples show various ways in which enums can be used in C programming to improve code readability and maintainability. Enums provide a way to define a set of named integer constants, which can help make your code more understandable.

Enum Use Cases in C Language
  • Representing State: Enums are often used to represent states or modes in a program, such as the states of a state machine.
  • Option Flags: They can be used to define sets of flags or options, often combined with bitwise operations.
  • Switch Statements: Enums are particularly useful in switch statements, where you can switch based on the enumeration values.
  • Readability: Improving code readability and maintainability by replacing magic numbers with named constants.
Enum Limitations in C Language
  • Enums in C are essentially integers. They don’t provide strict type safety like in some other languages (e.g., C++ or Java), meaning you can assign any integer value to an enum variable, even if it’s not one of the enumerated values.
  • They don’t prevent duplicate values, which can lead to potentially confusing situations.

In the next article, I am going to discuss Typedef in C language. Here, in this article, I try to explain Enum in C Language with Examples. I hope you enjoy this article. I would like to have your feedback. Please post your feedback, questions, or comments about this article.

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