JSON AST parser, tokenizer, printer, traverser.

json, ast, json tree, abstract syntax tree
npm install @humanwhocodes/momoa@0.2.1


Momoa JSON

by Nicholas C. Zakas

If you find this useful, please consider supporting my work with a donation.


Momoa is an experimental general purpose JSON utility toolkit, containing:

  • A tokenizer that allows you to separate a JSON string into its component parts.
  • A ECMA-404 compliant parser that produces an abstract syntax tree (AST) representing everything inside of a JSON string.
  • A traverser that visits an AST produced by the parser in order.
  • A printer that can convert an AST produced by the parser back into a valid JSON string.


JavaScript defines the JSON object with methods for both parsing strings into objects and converting objects into JSON-formatted strings. In most cases, this is exactly what you need and should use without question. However, these methods aren't useful for more fine-grained analysis of JSON structures. For instance, you'll never know if a JSON object contains two properties with the same names because JSON.parse() will ignore the first one and return the value of the second. A tool like Momoa comes in handy when you want to know not just the result of JSON parsing, but exactly what is contained in the original JSON string.


You can install Momoa using npm or Yarn:

npm install @humanwhocodes/momoa --save

# or

yarn add @humanwhocodes/momoa



To parse a JSON string into an AST, use the parse() function:

const { parse } = require("@humanwhocodes/momoa");

const ast = parse(some_json_string);

If you want the tokens from the parsing operation returns as a proprety of the AST root, pass tokens:true as part of the second argument:

const { parse } = require("@humanwhocodes/momoa");

const ast = parse(some_json_string, { tokens: true });

// root now has a tokens array

If you want to parse such that C-style comments are allowed in the JSON code, then pass comments: true as part of the second argument:

const { parse } = require("@humanwhocodes/momoa");

const ast = parse(some_json_string_with_comments, { comments: true });

Note: If you use both tokens:true and comments:true, the returned tokens array will contain the comments along with the other syntax tokens.


To produce JSON tokens from a string, use the tokenize() function:

const { tokenize } = require("@humanwhocodes/momoa");

for (const token of tokenize(some_json_string)) {

If you want to tokenize C-style comments, then pass comments:true as part of the second argument:

const { tokenize } = require("@humanwhocodes/momoa");

const tokens = tokenize(some_json_string, { comments: true });


There are two ways to traverse an AST: iteration and traditional traversal.


Iteration uses a generator function to create an iterator over the AST:

const { parse, iterator } = require("@humanwhocodes/momoa");

const ast = parse(some_json_string);

for (const { node, parent, phase } of iterator(ast)) {
    console.log(phase); // "enter" or "exit"

Each step of the iterator returns an object with three properties:

  1. node - the node that the traversal is currently visiting
  2. parent - the parent node of node
  3. phase - a string indicating the phase of traversal ("enter" when first visiting the node, "exit" when leaving the node)

You can also filter the iterator by passing in a filter function. For instance, if you only want steps to be returned in the "enter" phase, you can do this:

const { parse, iterator } = require("@humanwhocodes/momoa");

const ast = parse(some_json_string);

for (const { node } of iterator(ast, ({ phase }) => phase === "enter")) {


Traversing uses a function that accepts an object with enter and exit properties:

const { parse, traverse } = require("@humanwhocodes/momoa");

const ast = parse(some_json_string);

traverse(ast, {
    enter(node, parent) {
        console.log("Entering", node.type);
    exit(node, parent) {
        console.log("Exiting", node.type);


To convert an AST into the JavaScript value it represents, use the interpret() function:

const { parse, interpret } = require("@humanwhocodes/momoa");

// same as JSON.parse(some_json_string)
const ast = parse(some_json_string);
const value = interpret(ast);

In this example, value is the same result you would get from calling JSON.parse(some_json_string) (ast is the intermediate format representing the syntax).


To convert an AST back into a JSON string, use the print() function:

const { parse, print } = require("@humanwhocodes/momoa");

const ast = parse(some_json_string);
const text = print(ast);

Note: The printed AST will not produce the same result as the original JSON text as the AST does not preserve whitespace.

You can modify the output of the print() function by passing in an object with an indent option specifying the number of spaces to use for indentation. When the indent option is passed, the text produced will automatically have newlines insert after each {, }, [, ], and , characters.

const { parse, print } = require("@humanwhocodes/momoa");

const ast = parse(some_json_string);
const text = print(ast, { indent: 4 });


To work on Momoa, you'll need:

The first step is to clone the repository:

git clone https://github.com/humanwhocodes/momoa.git

Then, enter the directory and install the dependencies:

cd momoa
npm install

After that, you can run the tests via:

npm test

Note: Momoa builds itself into a single file for deployment. The npm test command automatically rebuilds Momoa into that single file whenever it is run. If you are testing in a different way, then you may need to manually rebuild using the npm run build command.


This project takes inspiration (but not code) from a number of other projects:

  • Esprima inspired the package interface and AST format.
  • json-to-ast inspired the AST format.
  • parseJson.js inspired me by showing writing a parser isn't all that hard.


Apache 2.0

Frequently Asked Questions

What does "Momoa" even mean?

Momoa is the last name of American actor Jason Momoa. Because "JSON" is pronounced "Jason", I wanted a name that played off of this fact. The most obvious choice would have been something related to Jason and the Argonauts, as this movie is referenced in the JSON specification directly. However, both "Argo" and "Argonaut" were already used for open source projects. When I did a search for "Jason" online, Jason Momoa was the first result that came up. He always plays badass characters so it seemed to fit.

Why support comments in JSON?

There are a number of programs that allow C-style comments in JSON files, most notably, configuration files for Visual Studio Code. As there seems to be a need for this functionality, I decided to add it out-of-the-box.

Why are the source files in ESM and the test files are in CommonJS?

Unfortunately, Node.js still doesn't natively support ECMAScript Modules (ESM) and everyone generally expects npm packages to export things via CommonJS. As such, the source files are built (using Rollup) into a CommonJS package before publishing. To ensure that the published API is working correctly, it makes sense to write the tests in CommonJS and to pull in what would be the published package API.

Is it safe to use this package in production?

No. Absolutely not. This package is still very much experimental and won't be undergoing a lot of maintenance and development until my health improves. I'm sharing it primarily as an educational tool rather than something to depend on in your production environment.