A Prism is a loss less invertible optic that can see into a structure and optionally find its focus. They’re mostly used for structures that have a relationship only under a certain condition. I.e. a certain sum of a sum type (sealed class), the head of a list or all whole double values and integers (safe casting).

Since Prism has an optional focus it can be seen as a pair of functions getOrModify and reverseGet.

  • getOrModify: A -> Either<A, B> meaning we can get the focus of a Prism OR return the original value
  • reverseGet : B -> A meaning we can construct the source type of a Prism from a B

Given a Prism<S, A> we can write functions that work on the focus A without having to worry if the focus can be seen in S.

For a sum type NetworkResult we can create a Prism that has a focus into Success

import arrow.core.*
import arrow.optics.*

sealed class NetworkResult {
    data class Success(val content: String): NetworkResult()
    object Failure: NetworkResult()

val networkSuccessPrism: Prism<NetworkResult, NetworkResult.Success> = Prism(
        getOrModify = { networkResult ->
            when(networkResult) {
                is NetworkResult.Success -> networkResult.right()
                else -> networkResult.left()
        reverseGet = { networkResult -> networkResult } //::identity

As is clear from above Prism definition it gathers two concepts: pattern matching and constructor.

Since sealed classes enforce a certain relationship we can omit the reverseGet parameter to create a Prism for them.

val networkSuccessPrism2: Prism<NetworkResult, NetworkResult.Success> = Prism { networkResult ->
    when (networkResult) {
        is NetworkResult.Success -> networkResult.right()
        else -> networkResult.left()

Like mentioned we can now operate on NetworkResult as if it were Success

val networkResult = NetworkResult.Success("content")

networkSuccessPrism.modify(networkResult) { success ->
    success.copy(content = "different content")
// Success(content=different content)

We can also lift such functions.

val lifted: (NetworkResult) -> NetworkResult = networkSuccessPrism.lift { success ->
        success.copy(content = "different content")
// Line_1$NetworkResult$Failure@7ff7d15e

We can also modify or lift functions using Functors

networkSuccessPrism.modifyF(Option.applicative(), networkResult) { success ->
// Some(Success(content=content))
val liftF = networkSuccessPrism.liftF(Option.applicative()) { None }
// None

Prisms can easily be created by using any of the already mentioned constructors although for a sealed class a Prism could easily be generated. But we can also use a PartialFuntion to create a Prism.

val doubleToInt: Prism<Double, Int> = Prism(
        partialFunction = case(
                { double: Double -> double.toInt().toDouble() == double }
                      toT Double::toInt
        reverseGet = Int::toDouble


Nesting pattern matching blocks are tedious. We would prefer to define them seperately and compose them together. We can do that by composing mulitple Prisms.

Let’s imagine from our previous example we want to retrieve an Int from the network. We get a Success OR a Failure from the network. In case of a Success we want to safely cast the String to an Int.


val successToInt: Prism<NetworkResult.Success, Int> = Prism(
        partialFunction = case({ success: NetworkResult.Success -> Try { success.content.toInt() }.isSuccess() }
                toT { success -> success.content.toInt() }
        reverseGet = NetworkResult::Success compose Int::toString

val networkInt: Prism<NetworkResult, Int> = networkSuccessPrism compose successToInt
networkInt.getOption(NetworkResult.Success("invalid int"))
// None
// None
// Some(5)

Prism can be composed with all optics but Getter and result in the following optics.

  Iso Lens Prism Optional Getter Setter Fold Traversal
Prism Prism Optional Prism Optional X Setter Fold Traversal

Generated prisms

Prisms can be generated for sealed classes by the @optics annotation. For every defined subtype a Prism will be generated. The prisms will be generated in the same package as the sealed class and will be named parentnameSubtypename().

@optics sealed class Shape {
  data class Circle(val radius: Double) : Shape()
  data class Rectangle(val width: Double, val height: Double) : Shape()
val circleShape: Prism<Shape, Shape.Circle> = shapeCircle()
val rectangleShape: Prism<Shape, Shape.Rectangle> = shapeRectangle()

Polymorphic prisms

When dealing with polymorphic sum types like Try<A> we can also have polymorphic prisms that allow us to polymorphically change the type of the focus of our PPrism. Following method is also available as pTrySuccess<A, B>() in the arrow.optics package.

fun <A, B> trySuccess(): PPrism<Try<A>, Try<B>, A, B> = PPrism(
        getOrModify = { aTry -> aTry.fold({ Try.Failure<B>(it).left() }, { it.right() }) },
        reverseGet = { b -> Try.Success(b) }

val liftSuccess: (Try<Int>) -> Try<String> = pTrySuccess<Int, String>().lift(Int::toString)
liftSuccess(Try.Failure<Int>(ArithmeticException("/ by zero")))


Arrow provides PrismLaws in the form of test cases for internal verification of lawful instances and third party apps creating their own prisms.