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Version: v1.7.0

GraphQL in Relay

Table of Contents:


The graphql template tag provided by Relay serves as the mechanism to write queries, fragments, mutations or subscriptions in the GraphQL language. For example:

import {graphql} from 'react-relay';

query MyQuery {
viewer {

The result of using the graphql template tag are GraphQLTaggedNodes, which are used to define Query Renderers, Fragment Containers, Refetch Containers, Pagination Containers, etc.

However, graphql template tags are never executed at runtime. Instead, they are compiled ahead of time by the Relay Compiler into generated artifacts that live alongside your source code, and which Relay requires to operate at runtime. The Relay Babel plugin will then convert the graphql literals in your code into require() calls for the generated files.


Relay uses directives to add additional information to GraphQL documents, which are used by the Relay Compiler to generate the appropriate runtime artifacts. These directives only appear in your application code and are removed from requests sent to your GraphQL server.

Note: The relay-compiler will maintain any directives supported by your server (such as @include or @skip) so they remain part of the request to the GraphQL server and won't alter generated runtime artifacts.


@arguments is a directive used to pass arguments to a fragment that was defined using @argumentDefinitions. For example:

query TodoListQuery($userID: ID) {
...TodoList_list @arguments(count: $count, userID: $userID) # Pass arguments here

See Fragment Container docs for more details.


@argumentDefinitions is a directive used to specify arguments taken by a fragment. For example:

fragment TodoList_list on TodoList @argumentDefinitions(
count: {type: "Int", defaultValue: 10}, # Optional argument
userID: {type: "ID"}, # Required argument
) {
todoItems(userID: $userID, first: $count) { # Use fragment arguments here as variables

See Fragment Container docs for more details.

@connection(key: String!, filters: [String])

When using the Pagination Container, Relay expects connection fields to be annotated with a @connection directive. For more detailed information and example, check out our docs on using @connection inside a Pagination Container here.

Note: @connection is also supported in compatibility mode

@relay(plural: Boolean)

When defining a fragment, you can use the @relay(plural: true) directive to indicate that the fragment is backed by a GraphQL list, meaning that it will inform Relay that this particular field is an array. For example:

fragment TodoItems_items on TodoItem @relay(plural: true) {

@relay(mask: Boolean)

Relay by default will only expose the data for fields explicitly requested by a component's fragment, which is known as data masking.

However, @relay(mask: false) can be used to prevent data masking; when including a fragment and annotating it with @relay(mask: false), its data will be available directly to the parent instead of being masked for a different container.

Applied to a fragment definition, @relay(mask: false) changes the generated Flow types to be better usable when the fragment is included with the same directive. The Flow types will no longer be exact objects and no longer contain internal marker fields.

This may be helpful to reduce redundant fragments when dealing with nested or recursive data within a single Component.

Keep in mind that it is typically considered an anti-pattern to create a single fragment shared across many containers. Abusing this directive could result in over-fetching in your application.

In the example below, the user prop will include the data for id and name fields wherever ...Component_internUser is included, instead of Relay's normal behavior to mask those fields:

fragment Component_internUser on InternUser @relay(mask: false) {

export default createFragmentContainer(
({ user }) => /* ... */,
fragment Component_user on User {
internUser {
manager {
...Component_internUser @relay(mask: false)
... on Employee {
admins {
...Component_internUser @relay(mask: false)
reports {
...Component_internUser @relay(mask: false)

Relay Compiler

Relay uses the Relay Compiler to convert graphql literals into generated files that live alongside your source files.

A query like the following:

fragment MyComponent on Type {

Will cause a generated file to appear in ./__generated__/MyComponent.graphql, with both runtime artifacts (which help to read and write from the Relay Store) and Flow types to help you write type-safe code.

The Relay Compiler is responsible for generating code as part of a build step which, at runtime, can be used statically. By building the query ahead of time, the client's JS runtime is not responsible for generating a query string, and fields that are duplicated in the query can be merged during the build step, to improve parsing efficiency. If you have the ability to persist queries to your server, the compiler's code generation process provides a convenient time to convert a query or mutation's text into a unique identifier, which can greatly reduce the upload bytes required in some applications.

Set up relay-compiler

See our relay-compiler section in our Installation and Setup guide.

GraphQL Schema

To use the Relay Compiler, you need either a .graphql or .json GraphQL schema file, describing your GraphQL server's API. Typically these files are local representations of a server source of truth and are not edited directly. For example, we might have a schema.graphql like:

schema {
query: Root

type Root {
dictionary: [Word]

type Word {
id: String!
definition: WordDefinition

type WordDefinition {
text: String
image: String

Source files

Additionally, you need a directory containing .js files that use the graphql tag to describe GraphQL queries and fragments. Let's call this ./src.

Then run yarn run relay as set up before.

This will create a series of __generated__ directories that are co-located with the corresponding files containing graphql tags.

For example, given the two files:

  • src/Components/DictionaryComponent.js

    const DictionaryWordFragment = graphql`
    fragment DictionaryComponent_word on Word {
    definition {

    const DictionaryDefinitionFragment = graphql`
    fragment DictionaryComponent_definition on WordDefinition {

  • src/Queries/DictionaryQuery.js

    const DictionaryQuery = graphql`
    query DictionaryQuery {
    dictionary {

This would produce three generated files, and two __generated__ directories:

  • src/Components/__generated__/DictionaryComponent_word.graphql.js
  • src/Components/__generated__/DictionaryComponent_definition.graphql.js
  • src/Queries/__generated__/DictionaryQuery.graphql.js

Importing generated definitions

Typically you will not need to import your generated definitions. The Relay Babel plugin will then convert the graphql literals in your code into require() calls for the generated files.

However the Relay Compiler also automatically generates Flow types as type comments. For example, you can import the generated Flow types like so:

import type {DictionaryComponent_word} from './__generated__/DictionaryComponent_word.graphql';

Advanced usage

In addition to the bin script, the relay-compiler package also exports library code which you may use to create more complex configurations for the compiler, or to extend the compiler with your own custom output.

If you find you need to do something unique (like generate types that conform to an older version of Flow, or to parse non-javascript source files), you can build your own version of the Compiler by swapping in your own FileWriter and ASTCache, or by adding on an additional IRTransform. Note, the internal APIs of the RelayCompiler are under constant iteration, so rolling your own version may lead to incompatibilities with future releases.