How to fix “__dirname is not defined in ES module scope”

In modern JavaScript development, ES modules have become a standard for organizing and modularizing code. However, when working with ES modules, developers may encounter an error message stating “__dirname is not defined in es module scope.”

This error can be confusing and frustrating, especially for those new to ES modules. In this article, we will delve into the details of this issue, explore its causes, and provide solutions to resolve it effectively.

What is __dirname and its Role in CommonJS Modules?

To understand the error “__dirname is not defined in es module scope,” we must first grasp the concept of __dirname in the context of CommonJS modules. In CommonJS, __dirname is a global variable that represents the directory name of the current module. It provides the absolute path of the directory containing the current module file.

CommonJS is a module system used in Node.js that allows us to export and import modules using require and module.exports respectively. Within CommonJS modules, __dirname is a crucial tool for accessing files and resources relative to the current module’s location.

The Transition to ES Modules and the Issue with __dirname

ES modules, on the other hand, use a different module system that is built into modern JavaScript. This module system provides a more standardized and efficient approach to module organization. However, due to the differences between CommonJS and ES modules, certain features and variables are not directly compatible.

One such incompatibility is the absence of __dirname in the scope of ES modules. Unlike CommonJS modules, ES modules do not have a built-in variable to access the directory name of the current module. This disparity can lead to the error message “__dirname is not defined in es module scope” when attempting to use __dirname within an ES module.

Causes of the “__dirname is not defined in es module scope” Error

The error “__dirname is not defined in es module scope” occurs when a developer mistakenly tries to access __dirname within an ES module. The error message serves as a reminder that __dirname is not accessible in the scope of ES modules.

The primary reason for this error is the difference in module resolution mechanisms between CommonJS and ES modules. While CommonJS uses a synchronous require function to load modules, ES modules use an asynchronous import statement. This difference results in the absence of __dirname in the ES module scope.

Resolving the “__dirname is not defined in es module scope” Error

To overcome the “__dirname is not defined in es module scope” error, we need to find alternative approaches to achieve similar functionality within ES modules. Thankfully, several solutions exist that allow us to work around this limitation. Let’s explore some of the most common methods to resolve this issue:

1. Using the import.meta.url Property

In ES modules, you can access the URL of the current module file using the import.meta.url property. Although it is not a direct replacement for __dirname, it can provide similar functionality by allowing you to extract the directory name from the URL.

Here’s an example of how you can retrieve the directory name using import.meta.url:

import { fileURLToPath } from ‘url’;
import { dirname } from ‘path’;

const __filename = fileURLToPath(import.meta.url);
const __dirname = dirname(__filename);


2. Using the import.meta.url Property in Combination with Custom Helper Functions

Alternatively, you can create a custom helper function that encapsulates the logic for retrieving the directory name from the import.meta.url property. This approach offers a more concise and reusable solution.

Consider the following example of a helper function:

import { fileURLToPath } from ‘url’;
import { dirname } from ‘path’;

function getDirname() {
const __filename = fileURLToPath(import.meta.url);
return dirname(__filename);

export default getDirname;

By defining a custom helper function, you can easily obtain the directory name whenever needed within your ES module.


Understanding and resolving the “__dirname is not defined in es module scope” error is essential for developers working with ES modules. By leveraging alternative approaches such as the import.meta.url property and custom helper functions, you can overcome this limitation and achieve similar functionality to __dirname in CommonJS modules.

Remember to choose the method that best suits your project’s requirements and enjoy the benefits of modular and organized code within the realm of ES modules.