Find the index of the last element in an array

Most Perl programmers know that to find the size of an array, the array must called in a scalar context like this:

# Declare the array
my @numbers_array = (41,67,13,9,62); 
# Get the array size
my $size_of_array = @numbers_array;

This understanding can lead to programmers applying a scalar context to an array to access its last element (subtracting 1 because arrays are zero-based).

print $numbers_array[@numbers_array - 1];
# 62

The last-index variable

Perl has a ‘last-index’ variable for arrays ($#array_name).

print $#numbers_array; 
# 4
print $numbers_array[$#numbers_array]; 
# 62

The last index operator ($#array_name) also works on arrayrefs if you insert an extra dollar sigil:

my $arrayref = [41, 67, 13, 9, 62];
print $#$arrayref;
# 4
print $$arrayref[$#$arrayref]; 
# 62

Negative indexing

Perl provides a shorter syntax for accessing the last element of an array: negative indexing. Negative indices track the array from the end, so -1 refers to the last element, -2 the second to last element and so on.

# Declare the array
my @cakes = qw(victoria_sponge chocolate_gateau carrot);
print $cakes[-1]; # carrot
print $cakes[-2]; # chocolate_gateau
print $cakes[-3]; # victoria_sponge
print $cakes[0];  # victoria_sponge
print $cakes[1];  # chocolate_gateau
print $cakes[2];  # carrot

This article was originally posted on


David Farrell

David is a professional programmer who regularly tweets and blogs about code and the art of programming.

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