C++ Destructors

A destructor is a special member function that is called automatically when an object goes out of scope or when we delete the object with the delete expression.

In C++, a destructor has the same name as that of the class, and it does not have a return type. ~ precedes the identifier to indicate destructor. For example,

class  Wall {
    // create a destructor
    ~Wall() {
      // code

Here, ~Wall() is a destructor of the class Wall.

Note: If we don't define any destructor, move assignment, or move constructor in our class, then the C++ compiler will automatically create a default destructor with an empty body. It suffices in most cases.

However, if our class involves resource handling like dynamic memory allocation, we have to define a destructor and deallocate the resources in the destructor body.

Dynamic Memory Allocation in Class

When our class has pointer members, the default copy constructor just assigns the value of member pointers of one object to the member pointers of another object, rather than allocating different memory addresses and copying the value pointed by the member pointers.

To allocate new memory address for the variable and copy the data, we have to declare a copy constructor. Moreover, we have to deallocate the memory using destructor.

#include <iostream>
using namespace std;

// declare a class
class Wall {
    double* length;
    double* height;


    // initialize variables with parameterized constructor
    Wall(double len = 1.0, double hgt = 1.0)
      : length{new double{len}}
      , height{new double{hgt}} {
    // copy constructor with a Wall object as parameter
    // copies data of the obj parameter
    Wall(const Wall& obj)
      : length{new double{*(obj.length)}}
      , height{new double{*(obj.height)}} {
    void setLength(double len) {
        *length = len;
    double calculateArea() {
      return *length * *height;
    // destructor to deallocate memory
    ~Wall() {
        delete length;
        delete height;

int main() {
  // create an object of Wall class
  Wall wall1(10.5, 8.6);

  // copy contents of wall1 to wall2 by copy constructor
  Wall wall2 = wall1;
  // change the length of wall2

  // print areas of wall1 and wall2
  cout << "Area of Wall 1: " << wall1.calculateArea() << endl;
  cout << "Area of Wall 2: " << wall2.calculateArea();

  return 0;


Area of Wall 1: 90.3
Area of Wall 2: 98.9


Wall(const Wall& obj)
  :length{new double{*(obj.length)}}
  , height{new double{*(obj.height)}} {

is the copy constructor. It takes an object obj of Wall as a const reference.

: length{new double{*(obj.length)}}
, height{new double{*(obj.height)}} 

is the initializer list that copies the data to new memory locations and initializes the length and height pointers accordingly.

  • *(obj.length) is the value pointed by length pointer member of the argument object obj
  • new double{*(obj.length)} dynamically allocates memory for double datatype with the value *(obj.length) and returns the memory address
  • length{new double {*obj.length)}} initializes the length variable of the new object with the new memory address.


height{new double{*(obj.height)}}

initializes the height pointer member of the new object.

When the objects wall1 and wall2 go out of scope, their respective destructor is invoked. The destructor deallocates the dynamic memory acquired by the objects.

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