Delphi – Are delphi variables initialized with a value by default


I'm new to Delphi, and I've been running some tests to see what object variables and stack variables are initialized to by default:

TInstanceVariables = class
  fBoolean: boolean; // always starts off as false
  fInteger: integer; // always starts off as zero
  fObject: TObject; // always starts off as nil

This is the behaviour I'm used to from other languages, but I'm wondering if it's safe to rely on it in Delphi? For example, I'm wondering if it might depend on a compiler setting, or perhaps work differently on different machines. Is it normal to rely on default initialized values for objects, or do you explicitly set all instance variables in the constructor?

As for stack (procedure-level) variables, my tests are showing that unitialized booleans are true, unitialized integers are 2129993264, and uninialized objects are just invalid pointers (i.e. not nil). I'm guessing the norm is to always set procedure-level variables before accessing them?

Best Solution

Yes, this is the documented behaviour:

  • Object fields are always initialized to 0, 0.0, '', False, nil or whatever applies.

  • Global variables are always initialized to 0 etc as well;

  • Local reference-counted* variables are always initialized to nil or '';

  • Local non reference-counted* variables are uninitialized so you have to assign a value before you can use them.

I remember that Barry Kelly somewhere wrote a definition for "reference-counted", but cannot find it any more, so this should do in the meantime:

reference-counted == that are reference-counted themselves, or directly or indirectly contain fields (for records) or elements (for arrays) that are reference-counted like: string, variant, interface or dynamic array or static array containing such types.


  • record itself is not enough to become reference-counted
  • I have not tried this with generics yet