TypeScript error: Type cannot be used as an index type

Updated: January 8, 2024 By: Guest Contributor Post a comment

The Problem

While working with TypeScript, encountering type errors is common, especially when dealing with complex object structures and their types. In certain situations, you might come across a perplexing error: Type cannot be used as an index type. This message indicates that the type you are trying to use as an index for an object is not compatible with the constraints that TypeScript expects for indexable types. Let’s look at the common causes and solutions for this issue.

Understanding the Error

The error is triggered when a value of a type is used as an indexer for an object or array, but that type is not valid as a property key. In TypeScript, index types are constrained to be ‘string’ or ‘number’, since JavaScript object keys are essentially strings or symbols, and arrays are indexed by numbers.

Possible Solutions

Solution 1: Use a Mapped Object

Often, this error arises due to an incorrect assumption that the type of the object’s keys can be arbitrary. To mitigate this, you can define a type that uses the union of string constants that represent your keys.

  1. Define a mapped type with string literal keys representing the permissible property names of the object.
  2. Use this mapped type for the object that needs to be indexed.


type IndexKeyType = 'key1' | 'key2' | 'key3';
type MappedObjectType = { [K in IndexKeyType]: any };
let obj: MappedObjectType = { key1: 'value1', key2: 'value2', key3: 'value3' };
console.log(obj['key1']); // value1

Pros: This provides a safe way to use dynamic keys within the constraints of TypeScript’s type system.
Cons: The solution is not flexible if the keys are not known beforehand or are dynamic.

Solution 2: Index Signature

If your object keys are not known beforehand, you can define an index signature for your object to explicitly state what types of keys and values the object can have.

  1. Define an interface or type with an index signature.
  2. Use this interface/type for your object.


interface IndexableObj { [key: string]: any; }
let dynamicObj: IndexableObj = { 'anyKey': 'anyValue' };
dynamicObj['anotherKey'] = 'anotherValue';
console.log(dynamicObj.anyKey); // anyValue

Pros: Allows for flexibility with keys that are determined at runtime.
Cons: Can weaken type safety because it permits a broader set of keys and associated values.

Solution 3: Type Assertion

You can use type assertions to explicitly tell TypeScript to treat a specific expression as a different type.

When accessing the property, use a type assertion to coerce your indexing key into a ‘string’ type:

let obj: { [key: string]: any; } = {};
let key: any = 'dynamicKey';
obj[key as string] = 'myValue'; // Works fine
console.log(obj.dynamicKey); // myValue

Pros: Useful for cases where you are confident about the nature of your keys and want to bypass TS restrictions.
Cons: Overuse can lead to a false sense of security and potential runtime errors due to bypassing compiler checks.

Solution 4: Enum as Index

If your keys can be enumerable or you’re interfacing with a finite set of known keys, using an enum for indexes might be the best option.

  1. Define an enum that establishes your possible keys.
  2. Create your object with this enum type as index signature.


enum Keys {
    FirstKey = 'firstKey',
    SecondKey = 'secondKey',
type ObjWithEnum = { [K in Keys]: any };
let obj: ObjWithEnum = { [Keys.FirstKey]: 'value1', [Keys.SecondKey]: 'value2' };
console.log(obj[Keys.FirstKey]); // value1

Pros: Enum properties enforce a finite set of known keys and enhance code readability.
Cons: Less flexibility since the set of keys is fixed and predefined.

Final Words

Each of these solutions approaches the type error from a different perspective. Whether you require fixed, known keys or dynamic, runtime ones, TypeScript provides ways to ensure that your code not only compiles but adheres to the strict type safety that the language enforces.