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Clojure vs Scala: Differences and Similarities

Saira Tabassum - May 22, 2020

Clojure vs Scala: Summary

Clojure is a Lisp dialect; it’s a dynamically typed, compiled, functional JVM language. It is known for being robust, practical, but a bit slow in collection manipulation. Scala is a statically typed, object-oriented, functional JVM language. It is known for being fast, clean, and organized.

Clojure and Scala are two Functional Programming languages. Functional Programming (FP) is a programming style that builds structure and elements of computer programs using functions.

What makes a programming language functional is its ability to perform functional programming paradigms. FP was initially widely discussed in academia and eventually made its way into the development of commercial software.

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The language type performs computation using mathematical functions and focuses on immutable data structures. This programming style reduces errors and bugs and helps you write and maintain code more concisely and efficiently. Like Java itself, both of these languages can run on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). Thus, they are often referred to as ‘JVM languages.’

Both languages are worth learning and beneficial in their own ways. And this article will cover a quick compare and contrast of both of these languages. Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s define each language briefly.


scala logo

Scala was first launched in 2004 by a German scientist named Martin Odersky. It is called “ scalable language ” due to its application in a wide range of programming tasks, its ability to write concise and readable code, and its flexible design which caters to the demands of its users.

Scala works with optional parameters, named parameters, and raw strings. You can code Scala the same way as you code Java. Both Scala and Java have language interoperability, which means the libraries written in either language can be referenced directly in Scala or Java code.

Scala, a strongly typed language, supports both object-oriented and functional programming paradigms. It also includes many functional programming features like pattern matching, type inference, immutability, and Scheme. In Scala, you can create higher-order functions—functions that take other functions as parameters.

Some of the most popular tools and frameworks written in Scala are Apache Spark, Scalding (by Twitter), Apache Kafka, Apache Samza and Adam.

Since Scala’s syntax is very similar to Java, users who are already familiar with Java would find it easier to learn and transition into Scala.


clojure logo

Clojure is a general-purpose programming language written by Rich Hickey and released publicly in 2007. Clojure is designed for data processing and concurrent programming and allows programmers to deconstruct problems and create robust solutions. It uses a dynamic type system and contains an efficient infrastructure for multithreaded programming.

Clojure is a Lisp and, like other Lisps, treats code as data and has a powerful macro system. Clojure is a compiled language, and all its features support runtime. With Clojure, users can easily access Java frameworks.

Like Scala, Clojure runs on JVM as well as on Microsoft’s Common Language Runtime. Clojure uses data structures (singly-linked) to avoid the mutating state and provides a set of immutable lists, vectors, sets, and maps.

Clojure syntax is simple, and users who are familiar with Lisp will likely find learning Clojure quite easy.

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Clojure vs Scala: A Comparison

While Clojure and Scala may be similar in many ways, they each have their own set of differences. We will discuss the differences based on various factors like speed and language complexity below.

Scala vs Clojure: Performance (Speed)

Scala is fast. It can get work done even faster than Java. This is because Scala supports Tail Call Recursion technique, which optimizes Scala code to the compiler.

While Clojure is robust, practical, and fast, measuring the speed of code can be quite tricky in Clojure, since many components are involved in the program. Clojure is known to take a long time to boot and is slow in collection manipulation.

Clojure vs Sala: Functional Programming

Both Scala and Clojure are Functional Programming languages and embrace writing code using immutable data, which ensures programs that are functional. Scala deals with first-class functions and contains an immutable collection of libraries.

Clojure is also constituted of an immutable set of data structures. Both languages provide the tools to avoid mutable state.

Scala vs Clojure: Complexity

Scala was created to be a “better Java” to overcome the restrictive and tedious aspects of the Java language. However, due to some code distinctions and differences, students may find the early learning of Scala to be a little difficult.

That said, the results of using Scala turn out to be much cleaner and organized. Scala also works great in navigating a complex domain (distributed and concurrent programming).

Reading Clojure code can be described as reading the code from inside-out. It is dynamically typed and promotes a combination of built-in data structures (lists, maps, and vectors).


Clojure Scala
Lisp Language Similar to Java
Slower than Scala Faster than Clojure (and Java)
Dynamically typed Statically typed

In the end, we have learned that both Scala and Clojure are competent, functional languages and run on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM).

Scala is similar to Java and hence easier to pick up for those already familiar with Java. Clojure is a Lisp and its syntax can be alien to some; however, it provides robust solutions.

Both languages have their own uses and functionality. It really comes down to which language works better for what you are trying to program.

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Saira Tabassum

About the author: Saira is a writer at Career Karma, where she covers topics such as technology, occupations, and higher education. After earning bachelor's in Mass Communication from National University of Sciences and Technology, Saira moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. There, she started work as a technical writer, covering topics like semiconductors, cloud security, and petrochemicals. In November 2019, she brought her extensive writing experience to the Career Karma team.

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