What is C++? A Comprehensive Definition and Overview

C++ is a general-purpose programming language known for its high performance and versatility. Created by Bjarne Stroustrup in 1985, C++ has become one of the most popular programming languages globally since its inception. According to the TIOBE index, as of September 2021, C++ is ranked as the 4th most popular programming language. This powerful language is utilized in a diverse range of applications, from embedded systems to video games and everything in between, making it a vital component of the IT industry and software development.

“C++ is designed to allow you to express ideas, but if you don’t have ideas or don’t have any clue about how to express them, C++ doesn’t offer much help.” – Bjarne Stroustrup

What is C++? Definition of C++ (programming language)

C++ is a statically-typed, free-form, and compiled language that supports procedural, object-oriented, and generic programming paradigms. It is an extension of the C language, which is why it’s called C++, where the “++” symbolizes an increment in C. The word “increment” implies that C++ builds upon the foundation laid by the C language, adding features like classes, objects, and inline functions to support object-oriented programming (OOP). The combination of the C language’s procedural roots with OOP capabilities makes C++ a powerful and flexible language in the world of software development.

ℹ️ Synonyms: C plus plus, Cpp, Cplusplus, C++ programming language

How it Works

The C++ language has a unique workflow, which can be described in the following steps:

  1. Writing the Source Code: Programmers develop the C++ code using a text editor or an Integrated Development Environment (IDE).
  2. Preprocessing: The source code is run through a preprocessor, which handles directives like #include and #define in the code.
  3. Compiling: The preprocessed source code is converted into object code (.obj files) by the C++ compiler.
  4. Linking: The object code files are linked together with any required libraries to create an executable file (.exe or .out).
  5. Execution: The executable file is run on the target system, producing desired results or outcomes.
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Benefits of using C++

  • High-performance: C++ is known for its ability to generate efficient machine code, which translates to faster applications and reduced response times.
  • Direct control over hardware: C++ allows programmers to manipulate computer hardware at a low level, making it a popular choice for optimizing performance in resource-constrained applications.
  • Object-oriented programming: C++ supports OOP, enabling code reusability, modularity, and scalability, which significantly simplify complex applications’ development and maintenance.
  • Powerful Standard Library: C++ comes with a robust standard library, the Standard Template Library (STL), which provides a wide range of reusable functions, classes, and algorithms that can expedite C++ software development.
  • Wide range of applications: C++ is versatile and can be used to develop anything from operating systems to video games, web browsers, and financial applications.
  • Large community: Thanks to its vast user base, finding support, libraries, and frameworks related to C++ is relatively easy, which can significantly accelerate project development.

C++ use cases

C++ has found its footing in a variety of industries and applications, such as:

  • Game development (e.g., Unreal Engine)
  • Embedded systems programming (e.g., microcontrollers, IoT devices)
  • Operating systems development (e.g., Microsoft Windows, macOS)
  • Web browsers (e.g., Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox)
  • Scientific computing and simulations (e.g., physics, astronomy)
  • High-frequency trading platforms and financial applications

Best Practices

When working with C++, there are a few recommended best practices that can significantly improve the development process, code maintainability, and performance optimization. Practicing effective memory management, using the RAII (Resource Acquisition Is Initialization) idiom, and employing smart pointers can minimize the risk of memory leaks and improve application efficiency. Moreover, writing modular and reusable code using object-oriented programming principles, keeping a consistent style, and documenting your code are essential for maintaining and understanding large applications. Finally, always stay up-to-date with the latest C++ standards and feature additions that can enhance the language’s expressiveness and capabilities.

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Most recommended books about C++

To learn and master C++, the following books are highly recommended:

  1. “C++ Primer” by Stanley B. Lippman, Josée Lajoie, and Barbara E. Moo
  2. “Effective Modern C++” by Scott Meyers
  3. “The C++ Programming Language” by Bjarne Stroustrup
  4. “A Tour of C++” by Bjarne Stroustrup
  5. “C++ Concurrency in Action” by Anthony Williams
  6. “C++ Templates: The Complete Guide” by David Vandevoorde, Nicolai M. Josuttis, and Douglas Gregor


C++ is a powerful, versatile, and high-performance language that has been at the forefront of the software development landscape for over three decades. With numerous benefits, a robust standard library, and a vast range of applications, C++ is an essential programming language for software developers to learn and master. By following best practices and staying updated with the latest developments, programmers can make the most of the language’s capabilities and write efficient, maintainable, and reusable code in C++.

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Back in 2013, I founded Echo with the simple business idea: "Connect great tech companies around the globe with the brightest software engineers in Eastern Europe." We've employed hundreds of talents so far and keep going.
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li-url Lou Reverchuk

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