Understanding the Semantic Version (SemVer) Constraints: Caret (^) vs Tilde (~)

David Garcia
3 min readApr 1, 2024
🌐 Navigating Versioning in package.json: Understanding Caret (^) and Tilde (~) 🔄

Author’s note: the following writing should be valid for any programming language’s engine which follows the Semantic Version, including PHP’s Composer (composer.json), JavaScript’s NodeJS (package.json), and more.

You're not alone if you've ever felt a bit puzzled by those funky Semantic Version symbols (^ and ~) in your project's dependency files.

Let's embark on a journey to unravel the mysteries of version constraints, focusing specifically on the differences between the Caret (^) and Tilde (~) operators.

By the end of our adventure, you'll know how to navigate version constraints like a seasoned pro, ensuring your projects stay rock-solid and hassle-free.

Before we discuss version constraint operators, let's examine Semantic Versioning (Semver). Semver is a language for communicating major, minor, and patch version changes:

  • Major changes break things;
  • Minor changes add features; and
  • Patch changes fix bugs.

The Tilde (~) Operator is like a flexible friend who helps us specify acceptable package version ranges. But here's the thing: it can be tricky, especially regarding patch versions.

Package managers commonly use the Tilde (~) Operator to specify a range of acceptable versions for a package. However, its behaviour can be nuanced, particularly concerning patch versions.

Example:

~1.0   means >=1.0.0 <2.0.0 (same as 1.*)
~1.0.0 means >=1.0.0 <1.1.0 (same as 1.0.*)

It's crucial to note that specifying the patch version explicitly when using the tilde operator can yield different results, especially when dealing with versions below 1.0.0:

Example:

~0.2 means >=0.2.0 <1.0.0 (potentially breaking changes allowed)
~1.2 means >=1.2.0 <2.0.0 (backwards compatibility maintained)

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David Garcia

Senior Software Engineer, Backend, NodeJS & Symfony developer, workaholic, passionate for new technologies and OSS contributor. https://linktr.ee/davidgarciacat