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The $addToSet operator adds a value to an array unless the value is already present, in which case $addToSet does nothing to that array.

The $addToSet operator has the form:

{ $addToSet: { <field1>: <value1>, ... } }

To specify a <field> in an embedded document or in an array, use dot notation.


$addToSet only ensures that there are no duplicate items added to the set and does not affect existing duplicate elements. $addToSet does not guarantee a particular ordering of elements in the modified set.

Missing Field

If you use $addToSet on a field that is absent in the document to update, $addToSet creates the array field with the specified value as its element.

Field is Not an Array

If you use $addToSet on a field that is not an array, the operation will fail. For example, consider a document in a collection foo that contains a non-array field colors.

{ _id: 1, colors: "blue,green,red" }

The following $addToSet operation on the non-array field colors fails:
   { _id: 1 },
   { $addToSet: { colors: "c" } }

Value to Add is An Array

If the value is an array, $addToSet appends the whole array as a single element.

Consider a document in a collection test containing an array field letters:

{ _id: 1, letters: ["a", "b"] }

The following operation appends the array [ "c", "d" ] to the letters field:

   { _id: 1 },
   { $addToSet: { letters: [ "c", "d" ] } }

The letters array now includes the [ "c", "d" ] array as an element:

{ _id: 1, letters: [ "a", "b", [ "c", "d" ] ] }


To add each element of the value separately, use the $each modifier with $addToSet. See $each Modifier for details.

Value to Add is a Document

If the value is a document, MongoDB determines that the document is a duplicate if an existing document in the array matches the to-be-added document exactly; i.e. the existing document has the exact same fields and values and the fields are in the same order. As such, field order matters and you cannot specify that MongoDB compare only a subset of the fields in the document to determine whether the document is a duplicate of an existing array element.


Consider a collection inventory with the following document:

{ _id: 1, item: "polarizing_filter", tags: [ "electronics", "camera" ] }

Add to Array

The following operation adds the element "accessories" to the tags array since "accessories" does not exist in the array:

   { _id: 1 },
   { $addToSet: { tags: "accessories" } }

Value Already Exists

The following $addToSet operation has no effect as "camera" is already an element of the tags array:

   { _id: 1 },
   { $addToSet: { tags: "camera"  } }

$each Modifier

You can use the $addToSet operator with the $each modifier. The $each modifier allows the $addToSet operator to add multiple values to the array field.

A collection inventory has the following document:

{ _id: 2, item: "cable", tags: [ "electronics", "supplies" ] }

Then the following operation uses the $addToSet operator with the $each modifier to add multiple elements to the tags array:

   { _id: 2 },
   { $addToSet: { tags: { $each: [ "camera", "electronics", "accessories" ] } } }

The operation adds only "camera" and "accessories" to the tags array since "electronics" already exists in the array:

  _id: 2,
  item: "cable",
  tags: [ "electronics", "supplies", "camera", "accessories" ]
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