Internet-Draft JSONPath November 2022
Gössner, et al. Expires 25 May 2023 [Page]
Intended Status:
Standards Track
S. Gössner, Ed.
Fachhochschule Dortmund
G. Normington, Ed.
C. Bormann, Ed.
Universität Bremen TZI

JSONPath: Query expressions for JSON


JSONPath defines a string syntax for selecting and extracting JSON (RFC 8259) values from a JSON value.

About This Document

This note is to be removed before publishing as an RFC.

Status information for this document may be found at

Discussion of this document takes place on the JSON Path Working Group mailing list (, which is archived at Subscribe at

Source for this draft and an issue tracker can be found at

Status of This Memo

This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Note that other groups may also distribute working documents as Internet-Drafts. The list of current Internet-Drafts is at

Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

This Internet-Draft will expire on 25 May 2023.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

JSON [RFC8259] is a popular representation format for structured data values. JSONPath defines a string syntax for selecting and extracting JSON values from a JSON value.

JSONPath is not intended as a replacement for, but as a more powerful companion to, JSON Pointer [RFC6901]. See Appendix B.

1.1. Terminology

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "NOT RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all capitals, as shown here.

The grammatical rules in this document are to be interpreted as ABNF, as described in [RFC5234]. ABNF terminal values in this document define Unicode code points rather than their UTF-8 encoding. For example, the Unicode PLACE OF INTEREST SIGN (U+2318) would be defined in ABNF as %x2318.

The terminology of [RFC8259] applies except where clarified below. The terms "Primitive" and "Structured" are used to group different kinds of values as in Section 1 of [RFC8259]; JSON Objects and Arrays are structured, all other values are primitive. Definitions for "Object", "Array", "Number", and "String" remain unchanged. Importantly "object" and "array" in particular do not take on a generic meaning, such as they would in a general programming context.

Additional terms used in this specification are defined below.


As per [RFC8259], a structure conforming to the generic data model of JSON, i.e., composed of components such as structured values, namely JSON objects and arrays, and primitive data, namely numbers and text strings as well as the special values null, true, and false. [RFC8259] focuses on the textual representation of JSON values and doesn't fully define the value abstraction assumed here.


A name/value pair in an object. (A member is not itself a value.)


The name (a string) in a name/value pair constituting a member. This is also used in [RFC8259], but that specification does not formally define it. It is included here for completeness.


A value in a JSON array.


A non-negative integer that identifies a specific element in an array. Note that the term indexing is also used for accessing elements using negative integers (Section "Semantics"), and for accessing member values in an object using their member name.


Short name for a JSONPath expression.


Short name for the value a JSONPath expression is applied to.


the position of a value within the argument. This can be thought of as a sequence of names and indexes navigating to the value through the objects and arrays in the argument, with the empty sequence indicating the argument itself. A location can be represented as a Normalized Path (defined below).


The pair of a value along with its location within the argument. Member names do not have locations and so do not have nodes. Members are not values and so do not have nodes. Note that a node is either the root node (defined below) or one of its descendants (also defined below).

Root Node:

The unique node whose value is the entire argument.

Children (of a node):

If the node is an array, the nodes of its elements. If the node is an object, the nodes of its member values. If the node is neither an array nor an object, it has no children. Note that the members and member names of an object do not have nodes.

Descendants (of a node):

The children of the node, together with the children of its children, and so forth recursively. More formally, the descendants relation between nodes is the transitive closure of the children relation.

Depth (of a descendant node within a value):

The number of ancestors of the node within the value. The root node of the value has depth zero, the children of the root node have depth one, their children have depth two, and so forth.


One of the constructs which select children ([]) or descendants (..[]) of an input value.


A list of nodes. While a nodelist can be represented in JSON, e.g. as an array, this specification does not require or assume any particular representation.

Normalized Path:

A simple form of JSONPath expression that identifies a node in a value by providing a query that results in exactly that node. Similar to, but syntactically different from, a JSON Pointer [RFC6901].

Unicode Scalar Value:

Any Unicode [UNICODE] code point except high-surrogate and low-surrogate code points. In other words, integers in either of the inclusive base 16 ranges 0 to D7FF and E000 to 10FFFF. JSON string values are sequences of Unicode scalar values.

Singular Path:

A JSONPath expression built from segments each of which, regardless of the input value, produces at most one node.


A single item within a segment that takes the input value and produces a nodelist consisting of child nodes of the input value.

1.2. History

This section is informative.

This document picks up Stefan Gössner's popular JSONPath proposal dated 2007-02-21 [JSONPath-orig], builds on the experience from the widespread deployment of its implementations, and provides a normative definition for it.

Appendix A describes how JSONPath was inspired by XML's XPath [XPath].

JSONPath was intended as a light-weight companion to JSON implementations on platforms such as PHP and JavaScript, so instead of defining its own expression language like XPath did, JSONPath delegated this to the expression language of the platform. While the languages in which JSONPath is used do have significant commonalities, over time this caused non-portability of JSONPath expressions between the ensuing platform-specific dialects.

The present specification aims to remove platform dependencies and serve as a common JSONPath specification that can be used across platforms. Obviously, this means that backwards compatibility could not always be achieved; a design principle of this specification is to go with a "consensus" between implementations even if it is rough, as long as that does not jeopardize the objective of obtaining a usable, stable JSON query language.

1.3. JSON Values

The JSON value a JSONPath query is applied to is, by definition, a valid JSON value. A JSON value is often constructed by parsing a JSON text.

The parsing of a JSON text into a JSON value and what happens if a JSON text does not represent valid JSON are not defined by this specification. Sections 4 and 8 of [RFC8259] identify specific situations that may conform to the grammar for JSON texts but are not interoperable uses of JSON, as they may cause unpredictable behavior. The present specification does not attempt to define predictable behavior for JSONPath queries in these situations.

Specifically, the "Semantics" subsections of Sections 2.5.1, 2.5.2, 2.5.5, and 2.6.2 describe behavior that becomes unpredictable when the JSON value for one of the objects under consideration was constructed out of JSON text that exhibits multiple members for a single object that share the same member name ("duplicate names", see Section 4 of [RFC8259]). Also, selecting a child by name (2.5.1) and comparing strings (Section "Comparisons" in Section 2.5.5) assume these strings are sequences of Unicode scalar values, becoming unpredictable if they aren't (Section 8.2 of [RFC8259]).

1.4. Overview of JSONPath Expressions

This section is informative.

A JSONPath expression is applied to a JSON value, the argument. The output is a nodelist.

A JSONPath expression consists of an identifier followed by a series of zero or more segments each of which contains one or more selectors.

1.4.1. Identifiers

The root node identifier $ refers to the root node of the argument, i.e., to the argument as a whole. Every JSONPath expression begins with the root node identifier.

The current node identifier @ refers to the current node in the context of the evaluation of a filter expression (described later).

1.4.2. Segments

Segments can use the bracket notation, for example:


or the more compact dot notation, for example:


A JSONPath expression may use a combination of bracket and dot notations.

Dot notation is a shorthand way of writing certain bracket notations.

This document treats the bracket notations as canonical and defines various shorthands in terms of bracket notation. Examples and descriptions use shorthands where convenient.

1.4.3. Selectors

A wildcard * (Section 2.5.2) in the expression [*] selects all children of an object or an array and in the expression ..[*] selects all descendants of an object or an array.

An array slice start:end:step (Section 2.5.4) selects a series of elements from an array, giving a start position, an end position, and possibly a step value that moves the position from the start to the end.

Filter expressions ?<boolean expr> select certain children of an object or array as in

$[?@.price < 10].title

1.4.4. Summary

Table 1 provides a quick overview of the JSONPath syntax elements.

Table 1: Overview of JSONPath
Syntax Element Description
$ root node identifier (Section 2.4)
@ current node identifier (Section 2.5.5) (valid only within filter selectors)
[<selectors>] child segment (Section 2.6.1) selects zero or more children of JSON objects and arrays; contains one or more selectors, separated by commas
.name shorthand for ['name']
.* shorthand for [*]
..[<selectors>] descendant segment (Section 2.6.2): selects zero or more descendants of JSON objects and arrays; contains one or more selectors, separated by commas shorthand for ..['name']
..* shorthand for ..[*]
'name' name selector (Section 2.5.1): selects a named child of an object
* wildcard selector (Section 2.5.1): selects all children of an array or object
3 index selector (Section 2.5.3): selects an indexed child of an array (from 0)
0:100:5 array slice selector (Section 2.5.4): start:end:step for arrays
?<expr> filter selector (Section 2.5.5): selects particular children using a boolean expression

1.5. JSONPath Examples

This section is informative. It provides examples of JSONPath expressions.

The examples are based on the simple JSON value shown in Figure 1, representing a bookstore (that also has a bicycle).

{ "store": {
    "book": [
      { "category": "reference",
        "author": "Nigel Rees",
        "title": "Sayings of the Century",
        "price": 8.95
      { "category": "fiction",
        "author": "Evelyn Waugh",
        "title": "Sword of Honour",
        "price": 12.99
      { "category": "fiction",
        "author": "Herman Melville",
        "title": "Moby Dick",
        "isbn": "0-553-21311-3",
        "price": 8.99
      { "category": "fiction",
        "author": "J. R. R. Tolkien",
        "title": "The Lord of the Rings",
        "isbn": "0-395-19395-8",
        "price": 22.99
    "bicycle": {
      "color": "red",
      "price": 399
Figure 1: Example JSON value

Table 2 shows some JSONPath queries that might be applied to this example and their intended results.

Table 2: Example JSONPath expressions and their intended results when applied to the example JSON value
JSONPath Intended result
$[*].author the authors of all books in the store
$ all authors
$.store.* all things in store, which are some books and a red bicycle
$.store..price the prices of everything in the store
$[2] the third book
$[-1] the last book in order
the first two books
$[?(@.isbn)] all books with an ISBN number
$[?(@.price<10)] all books cheaper than 10
$..* all member values and array elements contained in input value

2. JSONPath Syntax and Semantics

2.1. Overview

A JSONPath expression is a string which, when applied to a JSON value, the argument, selects zero or more nodes of the argument and outputs these nodes as a nodelist.

A query MUST be encoded using UTF-8. The grammar for queries given in this document assumes that its UTF-8 form is first decoded into Unicode code points as described in [RFC3629]; implementation approaches that lead to an equivalent result are possible.

A string to be used as a JSONPath query needs to be well-formed and valid. A string is a well-formed JSONPath query if it conforms to the ABNF syntax in this document. A well-formed JSONPath query is valid if it also fulfills all semantic requirements posed by this document.

To be valid, integer numbers in the JSONPath query that are relevant to the JSONPath processing (e.g., index values and steps) MUST be within the range of exact values defined in I-JSON [RFC7493], namely within the interval [-(253)+1, (253)-1]).

To be valid, strings on the right-hand side of the =~ regex matching operator need to conform to [I-D.draft-ietf-jsonpath-iregexp].

The well-formedness and the validity of JSONPath queries are independent of the JSON value the query is applied to; no further errors relating to the well-formedness and the validity of a JSONPath query can be raised during application of the query to a value.

Obviously, an implementation can still fail when executing a JSONPath query, e.g., because of resource depletion, but this is not modeled in the present specification. However, the implementation MUST NOT silently malfunction. Specifically, if a valid JSONPath query is evaluated against a structured value whose size doesn't fit in the range of exact values, interfering with the correct interpretation of the query, the implementation MUST provide an indication of overflow.

(Readers familiar with the HTTP error model may be reminded of 400 type errors when pondering well-formedness and validity, while resource depletion and related errors are comparable to 500 type errors.)

2.2. Syntax

Syntactically, a JSONPath query consists of a root identifier ($), which stands for a nodelist that contains the root node of the argument, followed by a possibly empty sequence of segments.

json-path = root-identifier segments
segments  =  *(S (child-segment /

The syntax and semantics of each segment are defined below.

2.3. Semantics

In this specification, the semantics of a JSONPath query define the required results and do not prescribe the internal workings of an implementation.

The semantics are that a valid query is executed against a value, the argument, and produces a list of zero or more nodes of the value.

The query is a root identifier followed by a sequence of zero or more segments, each of which is applied to the result of the previous root identifier or segment and provides input to the next segment. These results and inputs take the form of a nodelist, i.e., a sequence of zero or more nodes.

Segments can be added to a query to drill further into the structure of the input value.

The nodelist resulting from the root identifier contains a single node, the argument. The nodelist resulting from the last segment is presented as the result of the query. Depending on the specific API, it might be presented as an array of the JSON values at the nodes, an array of Normalized Paths referencing the nodes, or both -- or some other representation as desired by the implementation. Note that an empty nodelist is a valid query result.

A segment operates on each of the nodes in its input nodelist in turn, and the resultant nodelists are concatenated to produce the result of the segment. A node may be selected more than once and appears that number of times in the nodelist. Duplicate nodes are not removed.

A syntactically valid segment MUST NOT produce errors when executing the query. This means that some operations that might be considered erroneous, such as indexing beyond the end of an array, simply result in fewer nodes being selected.

Consider this example. With the argument {"a":[{"b":0},{"b":1},{"c":2}]}, the query $.a[*].b selects the following list of nodes: 0, 1 (denoted here by their value).

The query consists of $ followed by three segments: .a, [*], and .b.

Firstly, $ produces a nodelist consisting of just the argument.

Next, .a selects from any object input node and selects the node of any member value of the input node corresponding to the member name "a". The result is again a list of one node: [{"b":0},{"b":1},{"c":2}].

Next, [*] selects from any array input node all its elements (for an object input node, it would select all its member values, but not the member names). The result is a list of three nodes: {"b":0}, {"b":1}, and {"c":2}.

Finally, .b selects from any object input node with a member name b and selects the node of the member value of the input node corresponding to that name. The result is a list containing 0, 1. This is the concatenation of three lists, two of length one containing 0, 1, respectively, and one of length zero.

As a consequence of this approach, if any of the segments produces an empty nodelist, then the whole query produces an empty nodelist.

If a query may produce a nodelist with more than one possible ordering, a particular implementation may also produce distinct orderings in successive runs of the query.

In what follows, the semantics of each segment are defined for each kind of input node.

2.4. Root Identifier


Every JSONPath query MUST begin with the root identifier $.

root-identifier  = "$"


The root identifier $ represents the root node of the argument and produces a nodelist consisting of that root node.



{"k": "v"}


Table 3: Root identifier examples
Query Result Result Path Comment
$ {"k": "v"} $ Root node

2.5. Selectors

Selectors appear only inside child segments (Section 2.6.1) and descendant segments (Section 2.6.2).

A selector produces a nodelist consisting of zero or more children of the input value.

There are various kinds of selectors which produce children of objects, children of arrays, or children of either objects or arrays.

selector =  ( name-selector  /
              index-selector /
              slice-selector /

The syntax and semantics of each kind of selector are defined below.

2.5.1. Name Selector


A name selector '<name>' selects at most one object member value.

In contrast to JSON, the JSONPath syntax allows strings to be enclosed in single or double quotes.

name-selector       = string-literal

string-literal      = %x22 *double-quoted %x22 /     ; "string"
                      %x27 *single-quoted %x27       ; 'string'

double-quoted       = unescaped /
                      %x27      /                    ; '
                      ESC %x22  /                    ; \"
                      ESC escapable

single-quoted       = unescaped /
                      %x22      /                    ; "
                      ESC %x27  /                    ; \'
                      ESC escapable

ESC                 = %x5C                           ; \  backslash

unescaped           = %x20-21 /                      ; s. RFC 8259
                      %x23-26 /                      ; omit "
                      %x28-5B /                      ; omit '
                      %x5D-10FFFF                    ; omit \

escapable           = ( %x62 / %x66 / %x6E / %x72 / %x74 /
                         ; \b \f \n \r \t
                         ; b / ;  BS backspace U+0008
                         ; t / ;  HT horizontal tab U+0009
                         ; n / ;  LF line feed U+000A
                         ; f / ;  FF form feed U+000C
                         ; r / ;  CR carriage return U+000D
                         "/" / ;  /  slash (solidus) U+002F
                         "\" / ; \ backslash (reverse solidus) U+005C
                         (%x75 hexchar) ;  uXXXX      U+XXXX

hexchar = non-surrogate / (high-surrogate "\" %x75 low-surrogate)
non-surrogate = ((DIGIT / "A"/"B"/"C" / "E"/"F") 3HEXDIG) /
                 ("D" %x30-37 2HEXDIG )
high-surrogate = "D" ("8"/"9"/"A"/"B") 2HEXDIG
low-surrogate = "D" ("C"/"D"/"E"/"F") 2HEXDIG

HEXDIG = DIGIT / "A" / "B" / "C" / "D" / "E" / "F"

Note: double-quoted strings follow the JSON string syntax (Section 7 of [RFC8259]); single-quoted strings follow an analogous pattern (Section "Syntax").


A name-selector string MUST be converted to a member name M by removing the surrounding quotes and replacing each escape sequence with its equivalent Unicode character, as in the table below:

Table 4: Escape Sequence Replacements
Escape Sequence Unicode Character Description
\b U+0008 BS backspace
\t U+0009 HT horizontal tab
\n U+000A LF line feed
\f U+000C FF form feed
\r U+000D CR carriage return
\" U+0022 quotation mark
\' U+0027 apostrophe
\/ U+002F slash (solidus)
\\ U+005C backslash (reverse solidus)
\uXXXX U+XXXX unicode character

Applying the name-selector to an object node selects a member value whose name equals the member name M, or selects nothing if there is no such member value. Nothing is selected from a value that is not an object.

Note that processing the name selector requires comparing the member name string M with member name strings in the JSON to which the selector is being applied. Two strings MUST be considered equal if and only if they are identical sequences of Unicode scalar values. In other words, normalization operations MUST NOT be applied to either the member name string M from the JSONPath or to the member name strings in the JSON prior to comparison.



  "o": {"j j": {"k.k": 3}},
  "'": {"@": 2}


Table 5: Name selector examples
Query Result Result Paths Comment
$.o['j j']['k.k'] 3 $['o']['j j']['k.k'] Named value in nested object
$.o["j j"]["k.k"] 3 $['o']['j j']['k.k'] Named value in nested object
$["'"]["@"] 2 $['\'']['@'] Unusual member names

2.5.2. Wildcard Selector


The wildcard selector consists of an asterisk.

wildcard = "*"

A wildcard selector selects the nodes of all children of an object or array. The order in which the children of an object appear in the resultant nodelist is not stipulated, since JSON objects are unordered. Children of an array appear in array order in the resultant nodelist.

The wildcard selector selects nothing from a primitive JSON value (that is, a number, a string, true, false, or null).



  "o": {"j": 1, "k": 2},
  "a": [5, 3]


The following examples show the wildcard selector in use by a child segment.

Table 6: Wildcard selector examples
Query Result Result Paths Comment
$[*] {"j": 1, "k": 2}
[5, 3]
Object values
$.o[*] 1
Object values
$.o[*] 2
Alternative result
$.o[*, *] 1
Non-deterministic ordering
$.a[*] 5
Array members

The example above with the query $.o[*, *] shows that the wildcard selector may produce nodelists in distinct orders each time it appears in the child segment, when it is applied to an object node with two or more members (but not when it is applied to object nodes with less than two members or to array nodes).

2.5.3. Index selector


An index selector <index> matches at most one array element value.

index-selector = int                             ; decimal integer

int            = ["-"] ( "0" / (DIGIT1 *DIGIT) ) ; -  optional
DIGIT1         = %x31-39                         ; 1-9 non-zero digit

Applying the numerical index-selector selects the corresponding element. JSONPath allows it to be negative (see Section "Semantics").

Notes: 1. An index-selector is an integer (in base 10, as in JSON numbers). 2. As in JSON numbers, the syntax does not allow octal-like integers with leading zeros such as 01 or -01.


The index-selector applied to an array selects an array element using a zero-based index. For example, the selector 0 selects the first and the selector 4 selects the fifth element of a sufficiently long array. Nothing is selected, and it is not an error, if the index lies outside the range of the array. Nothing is selected from a value that is not an array.

A negative index-selector counts from the array end. For example, the selector -1 selects the last and the selector -2 selects the penultimate element of an array with at least two elements. As with non-negative indexes, it is not an error if such an element does not exist; this simply means that no element is selected.





The following examples show the index selector in use by a child segment.

Table 7: Index selector examples
Query Result Result Paths Comment
$[1] "b" $[1] Member of array
$[-2] "a" $[0] Member of array, from the end

2.5.4. Array Slice selector


The array slice selector has the form <start>:<end>:<step>. It matches elements from arrays starting at index <start>, ending at -- but not including -- <end>, while incrementing by step with a default of 1.

slice-selector =  [start S] ":" S [end S] [":" [S step ]]

start          = int       ; included in selection
end            = int       ; not included in selection
step           = int       ; default: 1

B              =    %x20 / ; Space
                    %x09 / ; Horizontal tab
                    %x0A / ; Line feed or New line
                    %x0D   ; Carriage return
S              = *B        ; optional blank space
RS             = 1*B       ; required blank space

The slice selector consists of three optional decimal integers separated by colons.


The slice selector was inspired by the slice operator of ECMAScript 4 (ES4), which was deprecated in 2014, and that of Python.

Informal Introduction

This section is informative.

Array slicing is inspired by the behavior of the Array.prototype.slice method of the JavaScript language as defined by the ECMA-262 standard [ECMA-262], with the addition of the step parameter, which is inspired by the Python slice expression.

The array slice expression start:end:step selects elements at indices starting at start, incrementing by step, and ending with end (which is itself excluded). So, for example, the expression 1:3 (where step defaults to 1) selects elements with indices 1 and 2 (in that order) whereas 1:5:2 selects elements with indices 1 and 3.

When step is negative, elements are selected in reverse order. Thus, for example, 5:1:-2 selects elements with indices 5 and 3, in that order and ::-1 selects all the elements of an array in reverse order.

When step is 0, no elements are selected. (This is the one case that differs from the behavior of Python, which raises an error in this case.)

The following section specifies the behavior fully, without depending on JavaScript or Python behavior.

Detailed Semantics

A slice expression selects a subset of the elements of the input array, in the same order as the array or the reverse order, depending on the sign of the step parameter. It selects no nodes from a node that is not an array.

A slice is defined by the two slice parameters, start and end, and an iteration delta, step. Each of these parameters is optional. len is the length of the input array.

The default value for step is 1. The default values for start and end depend on the sign of step, as follows:

Table 8: Default array slice start and end values
Condition start end
step >= 0 0 len
step < 0 len - 1 -len - 1

Slice expression parameters start and end are not directly usable as slice bounds and must first be normalized. Normalization for this purpose is defined as:

FUNCTION Normalize(i, len):
  IF i >= 0 THEN
    RETURN i
    RETURN len + i

The result of the array indexing expression i applied to an array of length len is defined to be the result of the array slicing expression Normalize(i, len):Normalize(i, len)+1:1.

Slice expression parameters start and end are used to derive slice bounds lower and upper. The direction of the iteration, defined by the sign of step, determines which of the parameters is the lower bound and which is the upper bound:

FUNCTION Bounds(start, end, step, len):
  n_start = Normalize(start, len)
  n_end = Normalize(end, len)

  IF step >= 0 THEN
    lower = MIN(MAX(n_start, 0), len)
    upper = MIN(MAX(n_end, 0), len)
    upper = MIN(MAX(n_start, -1), len-1)
    lower = MIN(MAX(n_end, -1), len-1)

  RETURN (lower, upper)

The slice expression selects elements with indices between the lower and upper bounds. In the following pseudocode, the a(i) construct expresses the 0-based indexing operation on the underlying array.

IF step > 0 THEN

  i = lower
  WHILE i < upper:
    SELECT a(i)
    i = i + step

ELSE if step < 0 THEN

  i = upper
  WHILE lower < i:
    SELECT a(i)
    i = i + step


When step = 0, no elements are selected and the result array is empty.

To be valid, the slice expression parameters MUST be in the I-JSON range of exact values, see Section 2.1.



["a", "b", "c", "d", "e", "f", "g"]


Table 9: Array slice selector examples
Query Result Result Paths Comment
$[1:3] "b"
Slice with default step
$[1:5:2] "b"
Slice with step 2
$[5:1:-2] "f"
Slice with negative step
$[::-1] "g"
Slice in reverse order

2.5.5. Filter selector


The filter selector has the form ?<expr>. It iterates over structured values, i.e., arrays and objects.

filter-selector = "?" S boolean-expr

During the iteration process the node of each array element or object member being visited is known as the current node. A boolean expression, usually involving the current node, is evaluated and the current node is selected if and only if the expression yields true.

Paths in filter expressions are Singular Paths, each of which selects at most one node.

The current node is accessible via the current node identifier @.

boolean-expr      = logical-or-expr
logical-or-expr   = logical-and-expr *(S "||" S logical-and-expr)
                      ; disjunction
                      ; binds less tightly than conjunction
logical-and-expr  = basic-expr *(S "&&" S basic-expr)
                      ; conjunction
                      ; binds more tightly than disjunction

basic-expr        = exist-expr /
                    paren-expr /
exist-expr        = [logical-not-op S] (rel-path / json-path)
                       ; path existence or non-existence
rel-path          = current-node-identifier segments
current-node-identifier = "@"

Parentheses MAY be used within boolean-expr for grouping.

paren-expr        = [logical-not-op S] "(" S boolean-expr S ")"
                                      ; parenthesized expression
logical-not-op    = "!"               ; logical NOT operator

relation-expr = comp-expr /           ; comparison test
                regex-expr            ; regular expression test

Comparisons are restricted to Singular Path values, each of which selects at most one node, and primitive values (that is, numbers, strings, true, false, and null).

comp-expr    = comparable S comp-op S comparable
comparable   = number / string-literal /        ; primitive ...
               true / false / null /            ; values only
               singular-path                    ; Singular Path value
comp-op      = "==" / "!=" /                    ; comparison ...
               "<"  / ">"  /                    ; operators
               "<=" / ">="

singular-path     = rel-singular-path / abs-singular-path
rel-singular-path = current-node-identifier singular-path-segments
abs-singular-path = root-identifier singular-path-segments
singular-path-segments = *(S (name-segment / index-segment))
name-segment      = "[" name-selector "]" / dot-member-name-shorthand
index-segment     = "[" index-selector "]"

Alphabetic characters in ABNF are case-insensitive, so "e" can be either "e" or "E".

true, false, and null are lower-case only (case-sensitive).

number       = int [ frac ] [ exp ]                ; decimal number
frac         = "." 1*DIGIT                         ; decimal fraction
exp          = "e" [ "-" / "+" ] 1*DIGIT           ; decimal exponent
true         = %x74.72.75.65                       ; true
false        = %x66.61.6c.73.65                    ; false
null         = %x6e.75.6c.6c                       ; null

The syntax of regular expressions in the string-literals on the right-hand side of =~ is as defined in [I-D.draft-ietf-jsonpath-iregexp].

regex-expr   = (singular-path / string-literal) S regex-op S regex
regex-op     = "=~"                        ; regular expression match
regex        = string-literal              ; I-Regexp

The following table lists filter expression operators in order of precedence from highest (binds most tightly) to lowest (binds least tightly).

Table 10: Filter expression operator precedence
Precedence Operator type Syntax
5 Grouping (...)
4 Logical NOT !
3 Relations == !=
< <= > >=
2 Logical AND &&
1 Logical OR ||

The filter selector works with arrays and objects exclusively. Its result is a list of zero, one, multiple or all of their array elements or member values, respectively. Applied to primitive values, it will select nothing.

The order in which the children of an object appear in the resultant nodelist is not stipulated, since JSON objects are unordered. Children of an array appear in array order in the resultant nodelist.

Existence Tests

A path by itself in a Boolean context is an existence test which yields true if the path selects at least one node and yields false if the path does not select any nodes.

Existence tests differ from comparisons in that:

  • they work with arbitrary relative or absolute paths (not just Singular Paths).
  • they work with paths that select structured values.

To test the value of a node selected by a path, an explicit comparison is necessary. For example, to test whether the node selected by the path has the value null, use == null (see Section 2.7) rather than the negated existence test ! (which yields false if selects a node, regardless of the node's value).


The comparison operators == and < are defined first and then these are used to define !=, <=, >, and >=.

When a path resulting in an empty nodelist appears on either side of a comparison:

  • a comparison using the operator == yields true if and only if the comparison is between two paths each of which result in an empty nodelist.
  • a comparison using the operator < yields false.

When any path on either side of a comparison results in a nodelist consisting of a single node, each such path is replaced by the value of its node and then:

  • a comparison using the operator == yields true if and only if the comparison is between:

    • equal primitive values,
    • equal arrays, that is arrays of the same length where each element of the first array is equal to the corresponding element of the second array, or
    • equal objects with no duplicate names, that is where:

      • both objects have the same collection of names (with no duplicates), and
      • for each of those names, the values associated with the name by the objects are equal.
  • a comparison using the operator < yields true if and only if the comparison is between values which are both numbers or both strings and which satisfy the comparison:

    • numbers expected to interoperate as per Section 2.2 of I-JSON [RFC7493] MUST compare using the normal mathematical ordering; numbers not expected to interoperate as per I-JSON MAY compare using an implementation specific ordering
    • the empty string compares less than any non-empty string
    • a non-empty string compares less than another non-empty string if and only if the first string starts with a lower Unicode scalar value than the second string or if both strings start with the same Unicode scalar value and the remainder of the first string compares less than the remainder of the second string.

Note that comparisons using the operator < yield false if either value being compared is an object, array, boolean, or null.

!=, <=, >, and >= are defined in terms of the other comparison operators. For any a and b:

  • The comparison a != b yields true if and only if a == b yields false.
  • The comparison a <= b yields true if and only if a < b yields true or a == b yields true.
  • The comparison a > b yields true if and only if b < a yields true.
  • The comparison a >= b yields true if and only if b < a yields true or a == b yields true.
Regular Expressions

A regular-expression test yields true if and only if the value on the left-hand side of =~ is a string value and it matches the regular expression on the right-hand side according to the semantics of [I-D.draft-ietf-jsonpath-iregexp].

The semantics of regular expressions are as defined in [I-D.draft-ietf-jsonpath-iregexp].

Boolean Operators

The logical AND, OR, and NOT operators have the normal semantics of Boolean algebra and obey its laws (see, for example, [BOOLEAN-LAWS]).



  "obj": {"x": "y"},
  "arr": [2, 3]
Table 11: Comparison examples
Comparison Result Comment
$.absent1 == $.absent2 true Empty nodelists
$.absent1 <= $.absent2 true == implies <=
$.absent == 'g' false Empty nodelist
$.absent1 != $.absent2 false Empty nodelists
$.absent != 'g' true Empty nodelist
1 <= 2 true Numeric comparison
1 > 2 false Strict, numeric comparison
13 == '13' false Type mismatch
'a' <= 'b' true String comparison
'a' > 'b' false Strict, string comparison
$.obj == $.arr false Type mismatch
$.obj != $.arr true Type mismatch
$.obj == $.obj true Object comparison
$.obj != $.obj false Object comparison
$.arr == $.arr true Array comparison
$.arr != $.arr false Array comparison
$.obj == 17 false Type mismatch
$.obj != 17 true Type mismatch
$.obj <= $.arr false Objects and arrays are not ordered
$.obj < $.arr false Objects and arrays are not ordered
$.obj <= $.obj true == implies <=
$.arr <= $.arr true == implies <=
1 <= $.arr false Arrays are not ordered
1 >= $.arr false Arrays are not ordered
1 > $.arr false Arrays are not ordered
1 < $.arr false Arrays are not ordered
true <= true true == implies <=
true > true false Booleans are not ordered


  "a": [3, 5, 1, 2, 4, 6, {"b": "j"}, {"b": "k"}, {"b": {}}],
  "o": {"p": 1, "q": 2, "r": 3, "s": 5, "t": {"u": 6}},
  "e": "f"


Table 12: Filter selector examples
Query Result Result Paths Comment
$.a[?@>3.5] 5
Array value comparison
$.a[?@.b] {"b": "j"}
{"b": "k"}
{"b": {}}
Array value existence
$[?@.*] [3, 5, 1, 2, 4, 6, {"b": "j"}, {"b": "k"}, {"b": {}}]
{"p": 1, "q": 2, "r": 3, "s": 5, "t": {"u": 6}}
Existence of non-singular paths
$[?@[?@.b]] [3, 5, 1, 2, 4, 6, {"b": "j"}, {"b": "k"}, {"b": {}}] $['a'] Nested filters
$.a[?@.b, ?@.b] {"b": "j"}
{"b": "k"}
{"b": "k"}
{"b": "j"}
Non-deterministic ordering
$.a[?@<2 || @.b == "k"] 1
{"b": "k"}
Array value logical OR
$.a[?@.b =~ "[jk]"] {"b": "j"}
{"b": "k"}
Array value regular expression
$.o[?@>1 && @<4] 2
Object value logical AND
$.o[?@>1 && @<4] 3
Alternative result
$.o[?@.u || @.x] {"u": 6} $['o']['t'] Object value logical OR
$.a[?(@.b == $.x)] 3
Comparison of paths with no values
$[?(@ == @)]     Comparison of structured values

The example above with the query $.a[?@.b, ?@.b] shows that the filter selector may produce nodelists in distinct orders each time it appears in the child segment.

2.6. Segments

Segments apply one or more selectors to an input value and concatenate the results into a single nodelist.

It turns out that the more segments there are in a query, the greater the depth in the input value of the nodes of the resultant nodelist:

  • A query with N segments, where N >= 0, produces a nodelist consisting of nodes at depth in the input value of N or greater.
  • A query with N segments, where N >= 0, all of which are child segments (Section 2.6.1), produces a nodelist consisting of nodes precisely at depth N in the input value.

The syntax and semantics of each segment are defined below.

2.6.1. Child Segment


The child segment consists of a non-empty, comma-separated sequence of selectors enclosed in square brackets.

Shorthand notations are also provided for when there is a single wildcard or name selector.

child-segment             = (child-longhand /
                             dot-wildcard-shorthand /

child-longhand            = "[" S selector 1*(S "," S selector) S "]"

dot-wildcard-shorthand    = "." wildcard

dot-member-name-shorthand = "." dot-member-name
dot-member-name           = name-first *name-char
name-first                = ALPHA /
                            "_"   /            ; _
                              ; any non-ASCII Unicode character
name-char                 = DIGIT / name-first

DIGIT                     =  %x30-39              ; 0-9
ALPHA                     =  %x41-5A / %x61-7A    ; A-Z / a-z

The dot-wildcard-shorthand is shorthand for [*].

A dot-member-name-shorthand of the form .<member-name> is shorthand for ['<member-name>'], but can only be used with member names that are composed of certain characters. Thus, for example, $ is shorthand for $['foo']['bar'] (and not for $['']).


A child segment contains a sequence of selectors, each of which selects zero or more children of the input value.

Selectors of different kinds may be combined within a single child segment.

The resulting nodelist of a child segment is the concatenation of the nodelists from each of its selectors in the order that the selectors appear in the list. Note that any node matched by more than one selector is kept as many times in the nodelist.

Where a selector can produce a nodelist in more than one possible order, each occurrence of the selector in the child segment may evaluate to produce a nodelist in a distinct order.

So a child segment drills down one more level into the structure of the input value.



["a", "b", "c", "d", "e", "f", "g"]


Table 13: Child segment examples
Query Result Result Paths Comment
$[0, 3] "a"
$[0:2, 5] "a"
Slice and index
$[0, 0] "a"
Duplicated entries

2.6.2. Descendant Segment


The descendant segment consists of a double dot .. followed by a child segment (descendant-segment).

Shortand notations are also provided that correspond to the shorthand forms of the child segment.

descendant-segment               = (descendant-child /
                                    descendant-wildcard-shorthand /
descendant-child                 = ".." child-segment

descendant-wildcard-shorthand    = ".." wildcard
descendant-member-name-shorthand = ".." dot-member-name

The descendant-wildcard-shorthand is shorthand for ..[*].

A descendant-member-name-shorthand of the form ..<member-name> is shorthand for ..['<member-name>'].

Note that .. on its own is not a valid segment.


A descendant segment produces zero or more descendants of the input value.

A descendant selector visits the input value and each of its descendants such that:

  • nodes of any array are visited in array order, and
  • nodes are visited before their descendants.

The order in which the children of an object are visited is not stipulated, since JSON objects are unordered.

Suppose the nodes, in the order visited, are D1, ..., Dn (where n >= 1). Note that D1 is the input value.

For each i such that 1 <= i <= n, the nodelist Ri is defined to be a result of applying the child segment [<selectors>] to the node Di.

The result of the descendant selector is the concatenation of R1, ..., Rn (in that order).

So a descendant segment drills down one or more levels into the structure of the input value.



  "o": {"j": 1, "k": 2},
  "a": [5, 3, [{"j": 4}, {"k": 6}]]


Table 14: Descendant segment examples
Query Result Result Paths Comment
$..j 1
Object values
$..j 4
Alternative result
$..[0] 5
{"j": 4}
Array values
$..[0] {"j": 4}
Alternative result
{"j": 1, "k" : 2}
[5, 3, [{"j": 4}, {"k": 6}]]
[{"j": 4}, {"k": 6}]
{"j": 4}
{"k": 6}
All values
$..o {"j": 1, "k": 2} $['o'] Input value is visited
$.o..[*, *] 1
Non-deterministic ordering
$.a..[0, 1] 5
{"j": 4}
{"k": 6}
Multiple segments

Note: The ordering of the results for the $..[*] and $..* examples above is not guaranteed, except that:

  • {"j": 1, "k": 2} must appear before 1 and 2,
  • [5, 3, [{"j": 4}, {"k": 6}]] must appear before 5, 3, and [{"j": 4}, {"k": 6}],
  • 5 must appear before 3 which must appear before [{"j": 4}, {"k": 6}],
  • 5 and 3 must appear before {"j": 4}, 4, , {"k": 6}, and 6,
  • [{"j": 4}, {"k": 6}] must appear before {"j": 4} and {"k": 6},
  • {"j": 4} must appear before 4, and
  • {"k": 6} must appear before 6.

The example above with the query $.o..[*, *] shows that a selector may produce nodelists in distinct orders each time it appears in the descendant segment.

The example above with the query $.a..[0, 1] shows that the child segment [0, 1] is applied to each node in turn (rather than the nodes being visited once per selector, which is the case for some JSONPath implementations that do not conform to this specification).

2.7. Semantics of null

Note that JSON null is treated the same as any other JSON value: it is not taken to mean "undefined" or "missing".



{"a": null, "b": [null], "c": [{}], "null": 1}


Table 15: Examples involving (or not involving) null
Query Result Result Paths Comment
$.a null $['a'] Object value
$.a[0]     null used as array
$.a.d     null used as object
$.b[0] null $['b'][0] Array value
$.b[*] null $['b'][0] Array value
$.b[?@] null $['b'][0] Existence
$.b[?@==null] null $['b'][0] Comparison
$.c[?(@.d==null)]     Comparison with "missing" value
$.null 1 $['null'] Not JSON null at all, just a member name string

2.8. Normalized Paths

A Normalized Path is a canonical representation of the identity of a node in a value. Specifically, a Normalized Path is a JSONPath query with restricted syntax (defined below), e.g., $['book'][3], which when applied to the value results in a nodelist consisting of just the node identified by the Normalized Path. Note that a Normalized Path represents the identity of a node in a specific value. There is precisely one Normalized Path identifying any particular node in a value.

A canonical representation of a nodelist is as a JSON arrays of strings, where the strings are Normalized Paths.

Normalized Paths provide a predictable format that simplifies testing and post-processing of nodelists, e.g., to remove duplicate nodes. Normalized Paths are used in this document as result paths in examples.

Normalized Paths use the canonical bracket notation, rather than dot notation.

Single quotes are used to delimit string member names. This reduces the number of characters that need escaping when Normalized Paths appear in double quote delimited strings, e.g., in JSON texts.

Certain characters are escaped, in one and only one way; all other characters are unescaped.

Note: Normalized Paths are Singular Paths, but not all Singular Paths are Normalized Paths. For example, $[-3] is a Singular Path, but is not a Normalized Path. The Normalized Path equivalent to $[-3] would have an index equal to the array length minus 3. (The array length must be at least 3 if $[-3] is to identify a node.)

normalized-path      = root-identifier *(normal-index-segment)
normal-index-segment = "[" normal-selector "]"
normal-selector      = normal-name-selector / normal-index-selector
normal-name-selector = %x27 *normal-single-quoted %x27 ; 'string'
normal-single-quoted = normal-unescaped /
                       ESC normal-escapable
normal-unescaped     = %x20-26 /                 ; omit control codes
                       %x28-5B /                 ; omit '
                       %x5D-10FFFF               ; omit \
normal-escapable     = ( %x62 / %x66 / %x6E / %x72 / %x74 /
                           ; \b \f \n \r \t
                           ; b /         ;  BS backspace U+0008
                           ; t /         ;  HT horizontal tab U+0009
                           ; n /         ;  LF line feed U+000A
                           ; f /         ;  FF form feed U+000C
                           ; r /         ;  CR carriage return U+000D
                         "'" /           ;  ' apostrophe U+0027
                         "\" / ; \ backslash (reverse solidus) U+005C
                         (%x75 normal-hexchar)
                                        ; certain values u00xx U+00XX
normal-hexchar       = "0" "0"
                          ("0" %x30-37) / ; "00"-"07"
                          ("0" %x62) / ; "0b" ; omit U+0008-U+000A
                          ("0" %x65-66) /
                            ; "0e"-"0f" ; omit U+000C-U+000D
                          ("1" normal-HEXDIG)
normal-HEXDIG        = DIGIT / %x61-66   ; "0"-"9", "a"-"f"
normal-index-selector = "0" / (DIGIT1 *DIGIT)
                          ; non-negative decimal integer

Since there can only be one Normalized Path identifying a given node, the syntax stipulates which characters are escaped and which are not. So the definition of normal-hexchar is designed for hex escaping of characters which are not straightforwardly-printable, for example U+000B LINE TABULATION, but for which no standard JSON escape, such as \n, is available.


Table 16: Normalized Path examples
Path Normalized Path Comment
$.a $['a'] Object value
$[1] $[1] Array index
$[-3] $[2] Negative array index for an array of length 5
$.a.b[1:2] $['a']['b'][1] Nested structure
$["\u000B"] $['\u000b'] Unicode escape
$["\u0061"] $['a'] Unicode character

3. IANA Considerations

3.1. Registration of Media Type application/jsonpath

IANA is requested to register the following media type [RFC6838]:

Type name:


Subtype name:


Required parameters:


Optional parameters:


Encoding considerations:

binary (UTF-8)

Security considerations:

See the Security Considerations section of RFCXXXX.

Interoperability considerations:


Published specification:


Applications that use this media type:

Applications that need to convey queries in JSON data

Fragment identifier considerations:


Additional information:
Deprecated alias names for this type:


Magic number(s):


File extension(s):


Macintosh file type code(s):


Person & email address to contact for further information:

Intended usage:


Restrictions on usage:




Change controller:


Provisional registration? (standards tree only):


4. Security Considerations

Security considerations for JSONPath can stem from

4.1. Attack vectors on JSONPath Implementations

Historically, JSONPath has often been implemented by feeding parts of the query to an underlying programming language engine, e.g., JavaScript's eval() function. This approach is well known to lead to injection attacks and would require perfect input validation to prevent these attacks (see Section 12 of [RFC8259] for similar considerations for JSON itself). Instead, JSONPath implementations need to implement the entire syntax of the query without relying on the parsers of programming language engines.

Attacks on availability may attempt to trigger unusually expensive runtime performance exhibited by certain implementations in certain cases. (See Section 10 of [RFC8949] for issues in hash-table implementations, and Section 8 of [I-D.draft-ietf-jsonpath-iregexp] for performance issues in regular expression implementations.) Implementers need to be aware that good average performance is not sufficient as long as an attacker can choose to submit specially crafted JSONPath queries or arguments that trigger surprisingly high, possibly exponential, CPU usage or, for example via a naive recursive implementation of the descendant segment, stack overflow. Implementations need to have appropriate resource management to mitigate these attacks.

4.2. Attacks on Security Mechanisms that Employ JSONPath

Where JSONPath is used as a part of a security mechanism, attackers can attempt to provoke unexpected or unpredictable behavior, or take advantage of differences in behavior between JSONPath implementations.

Unexpected or unpredictable behavior can arise from an argument with certain constructs described as unpredictable by [RFC8259]. Predictable behavior can be expected, except in relation to the ordering of objects, for any argument conforming with [RFC7493].

Other attacks can target the behavior of underlying technologies such as UTF-8 (see Section 10 of [RFC3629]) and the Unicode character set.

5. References

5.1. Normative References

Bormann, C. and T. Bray, "I-Regexp: An Interoperable Regexp Format", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-jsonpath-iregexp-02, , <>.
Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, , <>.
Yergeau, F., "UTF-8, a transformation format of ISO 10646", STD 63, RFC 3629, DOI 10.17487/RFC3629, , <>.
Crocker, D., Ed. and P. Overell, "Augmented BNF for Syntax Specifications: ABNF", STD 68, RFC 5234, DOI 10.17487/RFC5234, , <>.
Freed, N., Klensin, J., and T. Hansen, "Media Type Specifications and Registration Procedures", BCP 13, RFC 6838, DOI 10.17487/RFC6838, , <>.
Bray, T., Ed., "The I-JSON Message Format", RFC 7493, DOI 10.17487/RFC7493, , <>.
Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174, , <>.
Bray, T., Ed., "The JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) Data Interchange Format", STD 90, RFC 8259, DOI 10.17487/RFC8259, , <>.
The Unicode Consortium, "The Unicode® Standard: Version 14.0 - Core Specification", , <>.

5.2. Informative References

"Boolean algebra laws", n.d., <>.
ISO, "Information technology — ECMAScript for XML (E4X) specification", ISO/IEC 22537:2006 , .
Ecma International, "ECMAScript Language Specification, Standard ECMA-262, Third Edition", , <,%203rd%20edition,%20December%201999.pdf>.
Gössner, S., "JSONPath — XPath for JSON", , <>.
Bryan, P., Ed., Zyp, K., and M. Nottingham, Ed., "JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) Pointer", RFC 6901, DOI 10.17487/RFC6901, , <>.
Bormann, C. and P. Hoffman, "Concise Binary Object Representation (CBOR)", STD 94, RFC 8949, DOI 10.17487/RFC8949, , <>.
"Slice notation", n.d., <>.
Berglund, A., Ed., Chamberlin, D., Ed., Simeon, J., Ed., Robie, J., Ed., Fernandez, M., Ed., Kay, M., Ed., and S. Boag, Ed., "XML Path Language (XPath) 2.0 (Second Edition)", W3C REC REC-xpath20-20101214, W3C REC-xpath20-20101214, , <>.

Appendix A. Inspired by XPath

This appendix is informative.

At the time JSONPath was invented, XML was noted for the availability of powerful tools to analyze, transform and selectively extract data from XML documents. [XPath] is one of these tools.

In 2007, the need for something solving the same class of problems for the emerging JSON community became apparent, specifically for:

(Note that XPath has evolved since 2007, and recent versions even nominally support operating inside JSON values. This appendix only discusses the more widely used version of XPath that was available in 2007.)

JSONPath picks up the overall feeling of XPath, but maps the concepts to syntax (and partially semantics) that would be familiar to someone using JSON in a dynamic language.

E.g., in popular dynamic programming languages such as JavaScript, Python and PHP, the semantics of the XPath expression


can be realized in the expression[0].title

or, in bracket notation,


with the variable x holding the argument.

The JSONPath language was designed to:

A.1. JSONPath and XPath

JSONPath expressions apply to JSON values in the same way as XPath expressions are used in combination with an XML document. JSONPath uses $ to refer to the root node of the argument, similar to XPath's / at the front.

JSONPath expressions move further down the hierarchy using dot notation ($[0].title) or the bracket notation ($['store']['book'][0]['title']), a lightweight/limited, and a more heavyweight syntax replacing XPath's / within query expressions.

Both JSONPath and XPath use * for a wildcard. The descendant operators, starting with .., borrowed from [E4X], are similar to XPath's //. The array slicing construct [start:end:step] is unique to JSONPath, inspired by [SLICE] from ECMASCRIPT 4.

Filter expressions are supported via the syntax ?(<boolean expr>) as in

$[?(@.price < 10)].title

Table 17 extends Table 1 by providing a comparison with similar XPath concepts.

Table 17: XPath syntax compared to JSONPath
XPath JSONPath Description
/ $ the root XML element
. @ the current XML element
/ . or [] child operator
.. n/a parent operator
//, ..[index], ..*, or ..[*] descendants (JSONPath borrows this syntax from E4X)
* * wildcard: All XML elements regardless of their names
@ n/a attribute access: JSON values do not have attributes
[] [] subscript operator used to iterate over XML element collections and for predicates
| [,] Union operator (results in a combination of node sets); called list operator in JSONPath, allows combining member names, array indices, and slices
n/a [start:end:step] array slice operator borrowed from ES4
[] ?() applies a filter (script) expression
seamless n/a expression engine
() n/a grouping

For further illustration, Table 18 shows some XPath expressions and their JSONPath equivalents.

Table 18: Example XPath expressions and their JSONPath equivalents
XPath JSONPath Result
/store/book/author $[*].author the authors of all books in the store
//author $ all authors
/store/* $.store.* all things in store, which are some books and a red bicycle
/store//price $.store..price the prices of everything in the store
//book[3] $[2] the third book
//book[last()] $[-1] the last book in order
//book[position()<3] $[0,1]
the first two books
//book[isbn] $[?(@.isbn)] filter all books with isbn number
//book[price<10] $[?(@.price<10)] filter all books cheaper than 10
//* $..* all elements in XML document; all member values and array elements contained in input value

XPath has a lot more functionality (location paths in unabbreviated syntax, operators and functions) than listed in this comparison. Moreover, there are significant differences in how the subscript operator works in XPath and JSONPath:

  • Square brackets in XPath expressions always operate on the node set resulting from the previous path fragment. Indices always start at 1.
  • With JSONPath, square brackets operate on the object or array addressed by the previous path fragment. Array indices always start at 0.

Appendix B. JSON Pointer

This appendix is informative.

JSONPath is not intended as a replacement for, but as a more powerful companion to, JSON Pointer [RFC6901]. The purposes of the two standards are different.

JSON Pointer is for identifying a single value within a JSON value whose structure is known.

JSONPath can identify a single value within a JSON value, for example by using a Normalized Path. But JSONPath is also a query syntax that can be used to search for and extract multiple values from JSON values whose structure is known only in a general way.

A Normalized JSONPath can be converted into a JSON Pointer by converting the syntax, without knowledge of any JSON value. The inverse is not generally true: a numeric path component in a JSON Pointer may identify a member of a JSON object or may index an array. For conversion to a JSONPath query, knowledge of the structure of the JSON value is needed to distinguish these cases.


This specification is based on Stefan Gössner's original online article defining JSONPath [JSONPath-orig].

The books example was taken from -- a dead link now.


Marko Mikulicic
InfluxData, Inc.
Edward Surov
TheSoul Publishing Ltd.
Greg Dennis
New Zealand

Authors' Addresses

Stefan Gössner (editor)
Fachhochschule Dortmund
Sonnenstraße 96
D-44139 Dortmund
Glyn Normington (editor)
United Kingdom
Carsten Bormann (editor)
Universität Bremen TZI
Postfach 330440
D-28359 Bremen