If I have a variable x := "a".
Is there a way I can use it to assign a value to a, by just referring to x?
If I try Evaluate[x]=4 I get error messages about Tag Times in x Null is protected.
I would like some way of having it execute a = 4.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ x = "a"; Evaluate@Symbol[x] = 1; a $\endgroup$ Mar 9, 2015 at 16:11
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    $\begingroup$ This is kind of hard in Mathematica. One way to do this would be Hold[x]/.OwnValues[x]/.Hold[var_]:>(var = 4) assuming that a is a symbol. If a is a string name, then: ToExpression[x, StandardForm, Function[var, var=4, HoldFirst]]. $\endgroup$ Mar 9, 2015 at 16:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Maybe x /: Set[x, y_] := Set[a, y]? $\endgroup$
    – Kuba
    Mar 9, 2015 at 18:46
  • $\begingroup$ closely related: Table of references $\endgroup$
    – Kuba
    Mar 9, 2015 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ Okay I found something on the web that almost helps, but when I try an pass Hold a list rather than hard code things it barfs. If I swap the commented line for the hard coded Hold it does what I expect. cols is {ra,dec,z} Print[cols] l := Length[cols] Print[l] ClearAll[ra, assign] assign[symbols_, idx_, val_] := symbols[[{idx}]] /. _[x_] :> (x = val) symbols = Hold @@ cols; (*symbols=Hold[ra,dec,z]*) Print["Assign"] assign [symbols, 1, 4]; ra $\endgroup$ Mar 9, 2015 at 20:54

1 Answer 1


adding one more and summarizing comments

     ToExpression[x <> "=" <> ToString[10]];


     ToExpression[StringJoin @@ ToString /@ {x, "=", 3.14}]

from: @LeonidShifrin

     ToExpression[x, StandardForm, Function[var, var = 42, HoldFirst]]

@belisarius approach only works once:

     Evaluate@Symbol[x] = 1

after "a" has a value, Symbol[x] returns the value so this breaks if you try to use it more than once.

@kuba proposes using TagSetDelayed x:

     x := "a" 
     x /: Set[x, y_] := Set[a, y]

which will let you simply do:


with the result being assignment of "a" {x,a} -> {"a",3}

  • $\begingroup$ oh i see, i didn't understand.. $\endgroup$
    – george2079
    Mar 9, 2015 at 20:59

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