For now, this reference is a best-effort document. We strive for validity and completeness, but are not yet there. In the future, the docs and lang teams will work together to figure out how best to do this. Until then, this is a best-effort attempt. If you find something wrong or missing, file an issue or send in a pull request.

Pointer types

All pointers in Rust are explicit first-class values. They can be moved or copied, stored into data structs, and returned from functions.

Shared references (&)

Syntax
ReferenceType :
   & Lifetime? mut? TypeNoBounds

These point to memory owned by some other value. When a shared reference to a value is created it prevents direct mutation of the value. Interior mutability provides an exception for this in certain circumstances. As the name suggests, any number of shared references to a value may exit. A shared reference type is written &type, or &'a type when you need to specify an explicit lifetime. Copying a reference is a "shallow" operation: it involves only copying the pointer itself, that is, pointers are Copy. Releasing a reference has no effect on the value it points to, but referencing of a temporary value will keep it alive during the scope of the reference itself.

Mutable references (&mut)

These also point to memory owned by some other value. A mutable reference type is written &mut type or &'a mut type. A mutable reference (that hasn't been borrowed) is the only way to access the value it points to, so is not Copy.

Raw pointers (*const and *mut)

Syntax
RawPointerType :
   * ( mut | const ) TypeNoBounds

Raw pointers are pointers without safety or liveness guarantees. Raw pointers are written as *const T or *mut T, for example *const i32 means a raw pointer to a 32-bit integer. Copying or dropping a raw pointer has no effect on the lifecycle of any other value. Dereferencing a raw pointer is an unsafe operation, this can also be used to convert a raw pointer to a reference by reborrowing it (&* or &mut *). Raw pointers are generally discouraged in Rust code; they exist to support interoperability with foreign code, and writing performance-critical or low-level functions.

When comparing pointers they are compared by their address, rather than by what they point to. When comparing pointers to dynamically sized types they also have their addition data compared.

Smart Pointers

The standard library contains additional 'smart pointer' types beyond references and raw pointers.