Is R Considered a Scripting Language?


Scott Campbell

Is R Considered a Scripting Language?

R is a powerful and versatile programming language that is widely used for statistical computing and data analysis. While it may seem similar to other programming languages, such as Python or Java, one may wonder if R can also be classified as a scripting language. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of R and determine whether it fits the definition of a scripting language.

What is a Scripting Language?

A scripting language is a programming language that is typically interpreted and executed in real-time. It allows users to automate tasks, control software applications, and perform various operations without the need for compiling code. Scripting languages are often used for rapid prototyping, automation, and simplifying complex tasks.

R: A Statistical Computing Language

R was initially developed in the early 1990s by Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Its primary focus is on statistical computing and graphics. R provides an extensive set of tools and libraries that facilitate data manipulation, exploration, visualization, modeling, and more.

Unlike traditional scripting languages like Python or JavaScript, R was designed with a different purpose in mind. It is primarily used for interactive data analysis rather than general-purpose scripting. However, this does not mean that R cannot be used as a scripting language.

Characteristics of R

R possesses several characteristics that are commonly associated with scripting languages:

  • Interpreted: Like most scripting languages, R code is interpreted at runtime without the need for compilation beforehand.
  • Dynamically Typed: Variables in R do not require explicit type declarations; they are dynamically assigned based on the assigned value.
  • Interactive: R provides an interactive environment where users can execute code, view results, and modify their scripts on-the-fly.
  • Data Analysis and Automation: R is commonly used for automating data analysis tasks, making it suitable for scripting repetitive operations.

Scripting in R

In R, scripting typically involves writing a series of commands or functions to automate a specific task or analysis. These scripts are executed sequentially by an interpreter. Let’s consider an example:

# Example R script
# Load the 'dplyr' library

# Read data from a CSV file
data <- read.csv("data.csv")

# Filter the data based on a condition
filtered_data <- filter(data, column1 > 10)

# Perform some calculations on the filtered data
result <- sum(filtered_data$column2)

# Print the result

In this example, we load the ‘dplyr’ library, read data from a CSV file, filter the data based on a condition, perform calculations on the filtered data, and finally print the result. By running this script, we automate these operations and obtain the desired output without manual intervention.


While R is primarily known as a statistical computing language, it can also be considered as a scripting language due to its interpreted nature and support for automation. With its extensive libraries and powerful capabilities in data analysis and visualization, R provides developers with a flexible tool for scripting tasks related to statistical computing. So whether you are performing complex statistical analyses or simply automating repetitive tasks, R can be an excellent choice.

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