Iterable, lending iterators, etc

available on nightly stabilization


Traits often contain methods that return data borrowed from self or some other argument. When the type of data is an associated type, it needs to include a lifetime that links with self from a calling method. For example, in the Iterable trait...

fn main() {
trait Iterable {
    type Item<'me>
        Self: 'me;

    type Iter<'me>: Iterator<Item = Self::Item<'me>>
        Self: 'me;

    fn iter(&iter self) -> Self::Item<'_>;

...the Item and Iter traits take a 'me parameter, which is linked to the self variable given when iter is called.


There are many variants on this pattern:

  • Iterable, as shown above;
  • LendingIterator (and other LendingFoo) traits, which permit one to iterate over items but where the data may be stored within the iterator itself;
  • etc.

The where Self: 'me shown in the summary is (hopefully) a temporary limitation imposed by the current MVP. It indicates that the 'me lifetime can be used to borrow data from Self. Currently these where clauses are mandatory; they may be defaulted or made optional in the future. For a deeper explanation, see the required bounds page in the explainer.


Lacking this pattern, there are a number of common workarounds, each with downsides:

  • Use Box<dyn> values, as in graphene, though this adds dynamic dispatch overhead, inhibits inlining, and makes interactions with Send and Sync more complex;
  • Return a collection, like a Vec, as in metamolectular, though this results in unnecessary memory allocation;
  • Use HRTB, as rustc does, which is complex and leaks into your caller's signatures.