as_string() converts symbols to character strings.




A string or symbol. If a string, the attributes are removed, if any.


A character vector of length 1.

Unicode tags

Unlike base::as.symbol() and, as_string() automatically transforms unicode tags such as "<U+5E78>" to the proper UTF-8 character. This is important on Windows because:

  • R on Windows has no UTF-8 support, and uses native encoding instead.

  • The native encodings do not cover all Unicode characters. For example, Western encodings do not support CKJ characters.

  • When a lossy UTF-8 -> native transformation occurs, uncovered characters are transformed to an ASCII unicode tag like "<U+5E78>".

  • Symbols are always encoded in native. This means that transforming the column names of a data frame to symbols might be a lossy operation.

  • This operation is very common in the tidyverse because of data masking APIs like dplyr where data frames are transformed to environments. While the names of a data frame are stored as a character vector, the bindings of environments are stored as symbols.

Because it reencodes the ASCII unicode tags to their UTF-8 representation, the string -> symbol -> string roundtrip is more stable with as_string().

See also

as_name() for a higher-level variant of as_string() that automatically unwraps quosures.


# Let's create some symbols: foo <- quote(foo) bar <- sym("bar") # as_string() converts symbols to strings: foo
#> foo
#> [1] "foo"
#> [1] "symbol"
#> [1] "character"