In object-oriented programming, operator overloading is particularly useful because it allows you to make your custom classes behave more like built-in types and enables a more intuitive and natural syntax for working with objects. This concept is supported in various programming languages like C++, Python, and others. In simpler terms, Operator Overloading enables you to give special meanings to standard operators such as ‘+’, ‘-‘, ‘*’, ‘/’, ‘==’, ‘!=’, etc. so that they can work with your custom classes or data structures.

Defined Operator Overloading

Operator overloading in C++ allows you to define custom behaviors for the built-in operators when they are used with user-defined data types (classes or structs). This feature enables you to make your classes behave more like built-in types and provides a natural syntax for working with your objects.

To overload an operator, you need to define a function that implements the desired behavior for that operator when used with your custom data type. The overloaded operator functions are regular functions, but they have a special name and syntax.

Key points to understand about operator overloading in C++:

Syntax of Operator Overloading: The syntax to overload an operator is as follows:

return_type operator<operator_symbol>(parameters);

For example, to overload the ‘+’ operator for a custom class MyClass, you would define a function like this:

MyClass operator+(const MyClass& other);

Member vs. Non-member Overloading: You can define operator overloads as member functions of the class or as non-member functions. The choice depends on whether you need access to private members of the class. For example, to overload the ‘+’ operator, you could define it as a member function or as a non-member function.

Unary and Binary Operators: Unary operators, like ++, --, or -, have one operand, while binary operators, like +, -, or *, have two operands. The number of arguments in the operator overload function depends on whether it is unary or binary.

Overloading as Member Function: When overloading as a member function, the left-hand operand is the object invoking the operator, and the right-hand operand is passed as an argument. For example:

class MyClass {
    MyClass operator+(const MyClass& other);

Overloading as Non-member Function: When overloading as a non-member function, both operands are passed as arguments, and you don’t have direct access to private members of the class. This approach allows for symmetric operations where the left-hand and right-hand operands can be of different types. For example:

class MyClass {
MyClass operator+(const MyClass& lhs, const MyClass& rhs);


Here’s a simple example of overloading the ‘+’ operator for a Complex class representing complex numbers:

#include <iostream>

class Complex {
    Complex(double real, double imag) : real_(real), imag_(imag) {}

    Complex operator+(const Complex& other) const {
        return Complex(real_ + other.real_, imag_ + other.imag_);

    bool operator==(const Complex& other) const {
        return (real_ == other.real_) && (imag_ == other.imag_);

    double real_;
    double imag_;

int main() {
    Complex c1(2.0, 3.0);
    Complex c2(1.5, 2.5);

    Complex c3 = c1 + c2; // Operator '+' overloaded
    if (c1 == c2) { // Operator '==' overloaded
        std::cout << "c1 and c2 are equal." << std::endl;

    return 0;

In this example, we’ve overloaded the ‘+’ operator and ‘==’ operator for the custom Complex class to perform addition and equality comparison of complex numbers, respectively.


Q1: What is operator overloading in C++?

A1: Operator overloading in C++ allows you to define custom behaviors for the standard C++ operators when used with user-defined data types. This means you can make operators like +, -, *, /, etc., work with your own classes, enabling more natural and intuitive syntax.

Q2: Can I change the precedence or associativity of an operator through overloading?

A2: No, operator overloading doesn’t allow you to change the precedence or associativity of operators. The existing precedence and associativity rules remain unchanged.

Q3: Can I create new operators in C++?

A3: No, you cannot create entirely new operators in C++. You can only overload existing operators.

Q4: How do I decide whether to overload an operator as a member function or a friend function?

A4: If the operator requires access to private members of the class, it is generally better to overload it as a friend function. Otherwise, for operators that only require access to public members, overloading as a member function is preferred.

Q5: Is operator overloading inherited in C++?

A5: Yes, operator overloading is inherited in C++. If a base class has an overloaded operator, the derived class will also have that overloaded operator.

more related content on Object Oriented Programming

And get notified everytime we publish a new blog post.