There are so many tools available in the world of programming that it’s easy to confuse them. It doesn’t help when many of these tools appear to overlap and perform the same functions. It seems that the toughest part of web design or code writing is choosing the right resource to use.

But fear not, help is on the way! This article presents the differences (and similarities) between JavaScript and jQuery—two popular programming resources. We will start by explaining each tool separately, then exploring jQuery vs JavaScript.

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Let’s kick things off with JavaScript before getting into jQuery vs JavaScript.

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What is JavaScript?

JavaScript, frequently abbreviated as JS, is a prototype-based programming language used to enhance interactivity on websites. One of three core technologies (CSS and HTML are the other two) used to create webpages, JavaScript boosts user interface (UI) functions by supporting elements like animations, games, eye-catching flash, pop-ups, and client-side validation. If you like your web pages busy, with lots of animation and the ability to perform mouse overs and mouse clicks, you want JavaScript.

Every web browser supports JavaScript through built-in engines that identify JavaScript code and functions. Though initially used on client-side browsers, JavaScript is now at the point where it provides features and functionality to all manner of host software found on server-side databases and web servers.

Incidentally, this dynamic language has nothing to do with the Java programming language.

Here’s an Example of JavaScript

The following script displays a greeting, depending on what time it is.

 <script language="javascript">

var now = new Date();

if(now.getHours() < 12)

document.write('Good Day!');


document.write('Good Evening!');


Unfortunately, if JavaScript has been disabled on the target browser, it won’t get rendered, and the user will see a gap in the page. But see the jQuery example for how to get past that obstacle and to see why jQuery vs JavaScript may not be the best question, rather how can they be used together.

Advantages of JavaScript

While the premise of this article is jQuery vs JavaScript, we must bear in mind that this comparison isn’t exactly fair. After all, jQuery is a library, whereas JavaScript is a language. It’s best to compare JavaScript with other programming languages to fully appreciate JavaScript’s advantages.

  • It’s easier to learn
  • It’s lighter and faster
  • It’s easier to spot and correct errors
  • It’s used on more platforms and browsers
  • It doesn’t require a compiler because the web browser uses HTML to compile JavaScript

What is jQuery?

When looking for a good definition of jQuery, we need only look as far as its actual website. defines it as “…a fast, small, and feature-rich JavaScript library. It makes things like HTML document traversal and manipulation, event handling, animation, and Ajax much simpler with an easy-to-use API that works across a multitude of browsers.”

Therefore, unlike JavaScript, jQuery is not a programming language, but rather a cross-platform library developed from JavaScript.

Here’s an example of jQuery

The following script revisits the previous greeting example, but this time, as a jQuery script.

<p title="Good Day Message">Good Day!</p>

The above example is called a “title”, rendered in (X)HTML, easier to use and read. A programmer using the title attribute in the example below in conjunction with a selector can select the title in jQuery. So, the JavaScript used in this jQuery example resides in an external script file. Meanwhile, the page is rendered with standard (X)HTML, so even if JavaScript isn’t run, the page remains completely semantically pure (X)HTML.

var now = new Date();

if(now.getHours() >= 12)


var goodDay = $('p[title="Good Day Message"]');

goodDay.text('Good Evening!');


The above example shows you how to plan for the possibility that the target browser doesn’t run JavaScript.

Advantages of jQuery

jQuery has a lot to offer web developers. Its benefits include:

  • Enables developers/programmers to write JavaScript faster and easier
  • Works with multiple browsers, so the code is compatible regardless of whatever features the browser contains
  • Compresses the most common JavaScript actions into fewer lines of code
  • Helps you avoid common browser errors
  • Simplifies complex operations such as animation, event handling, and Ajax interactions
  • It’s a tool with proven success, thanks to almost 15 years of widespread use

jQuery vs JavaScript: What’s the Difference?

Before we get to our jQuery vs JavaScript table that lays out the differences, let’s use a real-world example.

Let’s say you own a cat. Cleaning out the cat’s litter box is a regular part of cat ownership. The chore consists of a series of smaller tasks, including pulling out the old litter box liner with the old litter, bagging it into the trash, placing a new liner in the litter box, opening up a new container of cat litter, pouring the litter into the box, and tossing away the old litter.

Rather than asking someone to perform all those steps each time the box needs cleaning, you just say, “Can you please clean out the cat box?” That simple question covers the entire request, implicitly including all the steps mentioned above.

That is how jQuery works. Over time, developers realized that specific steps, rendered in lines of code, need to be done repeatedly. Rather than taking the excessive time and effort to write out all those lines every time they need them, they code the most common JavaScript actions into a reusable format. This task cuts down the need for writing lengthy code.

You should also remember that jQuery can’t exist without JavaScript, but JavaScript can exist without jQuery.

jQuery vs JavaScript:




A programming language

An application programming interface (API), a cross-platform JavaScript library designed to improve web browser features


Written in C

Uses JavaScript


Requires programmers to write their scripts, which is time-consuming

Most of the scripting already exists in libraries


Programmers must write their code or workarounds to handle multi-browser capabilities

It’s a multi-browser library; no further actions needed

Code Length

Requires more lines of code

Requires fewer lines of code


Pure JavaScript accesses Document Object Models (DOM) faster since the browser directly accesses the language.

Although fast, it still needs a little time to be converted into JavaScript to run in a browser.

Event Handling/Interactions

Possible, but requires many lines of code

Easily handled, since many functions (animation, events) are already pre-defined in the library. No extra code needed.


Verbose due to needing many lines of code for any functionality

Concise, to the point that sometimes only one line is needed


Heavyweight, since it’s a language

Lightweight, due to the minified version of its code

Maintainability and Reusability

Thanks to it being verbose, it may be harder to maintain and reuse

Fewer lines of code mean it’s easier to maintain and reuse functions in different places in the code.

Conclusion: jQuery vs JavaScript

In summary, if you’re looking for the best programming language for your web development project, you need to choose JavaScript. Building on that, however, you’re better off using jQuery if you want to create a more dynamic website but don’t want to invest countless hours writing redundant code. So, again, the answers to a jQuery vs JavaScript debate is quite nuanced. 

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