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Understanding event bubbling, capturing and delegation in JavaScript

Event bubbling

Bubbling means that the event propagates from the target element (i.e. the button the user clicked) up through its ancestor tree, starting from the nearest one. By default, all events bubble.

To better understand event bubbling, consider the following HTML example, which we will be referring to for most of this article:

    <div id="btn-container">
      <button class="btn">Click me</button>
const ancestors = [
  window, document, document.documentElement,
  document.body, document.getElementById('btn-container')

// Target phase
document.querySelector('.btn').addEventListener('click', e => {
  console.log(`Hello from ${}`);
// Bubble phase
ancestors.forEach(a => {
  a.addEventListener('click', e => {
    console.log(`Hello from ${e.currentTarget}`);

If we add an event listener to each element in the tree, as shown above, we would see a listener fired by the button first, then each one of the others firing from the nearest ancestor all the way up to Window.

Event capturing

Capturing is the exact opposite of bubbling, meaning that the outer event handlers are fired before the most specific handler (i.e. the one on the button). Note that all capturing event handlers are run first, then all the bubbling event handlers.

You can use event capturing by applying a third argument to EventTarget.addEventListener, setting it to true. For example:

// Capture phase
ancestors.forEach(a => {
  a.addEventListener('click', e => {
    console.log(`Hello from ${e.currentTarget}`);
  }, true);

Given this code, we would see a listener fired for each ancestor of the button first and then the listener of the button would fire.

Event propagation

Having explained event bubbling and capturing, we can now explain the three phases of event propagation:

Event delegation

Event delegation refers to the idea of delegating event listening to parent elements instead of adding event listeners directly to the event targets. Using this technique, the parent can catch and handle the bubbling events as necessary.

window.addEventListener('click', e => {
  if ( === 'btn') console.log('Hello there!');

In the above example, we delegate event handling from the button to Window and use to get the original event's target.

Using the event delegation pattern is advantageous for two reasons:

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