Class Metaprogramming in Ruby

2 min read

A Ruby class definition is just regular code that runs. When you use the class keyword to create a class, you aren’t just dictating how objects will behave in the future. You are actually running code.

You can put any code in a class definition, and it returns the value of the last statement, just like methods and blocks do.

name = class Ruby
  puts "Hello world"
  creator = "Matz"

puts name

# Output
Hello world

Inside the class definition, the class itself takes the role of the self.

klass = class Ruby

puts klass		# Ruby
puts		# <Ruby:0x00007fbd25854af0>

To access variables defined outside the class definition (i.e., flattening the scope), use class_eval. Inside, you can also define new methods dynamically on the class, using define_method.

ror = "Ruby on Rails"

class Ruby; end

Ruby.class_eval do
  puts ror

  define_method(:run) do
    puts "Hello, from the new method"

# Output
# Ruby on Rails
# Hello, from the new method

Instance variables of a class (class instance variables) are different from the instance variables of that class’s objects. If you come from Java or C#, it’s tempting to think that the class instance variables are just the static fields of the class. Instead, they’re just regular instance variables of an object of class Class.

The following example illustrates this. The class Ruby is an object of the class Class, whereas rb is an object of the class Ruby.

class Ruby
  # ror is a instance variable of class 'Ruby'
  @ror = "Ruby on Rails" 

  def self.rails
    puts @ror

  def initialize
    # language is an instance variable of 'a Ruby object'
    @language = "Ruby" 

  def execute
    puts @language

rb =

# valid code

# invalid code

# Output
# Ruby on Rails
# Ruby
# undefined method `execute' for Ruby:Class
# undefined method `rails' for #<Ruby:0x00007ff1...

Singleton Methods

When you define a method on a class, e.g. Ruby.rails, it’s also known as a singleton method of a class.

Here’s the syntax to define singleton method on an object. Here, object can be an object reference, a class name, or self.

def object.method_name
  # method body

Singleton Classes

A singleton class is where an object’s singleton methods live, whether that object is a class name or an object reference. You can access the singleton class by calling singleton_class method on the object.

The superclass of the singleton class of an object is the object’s class.

The superclass of the singleton class of a class is the singleton class of the class’s superclass.

from: Metaprogramming Ruby 2