How to fix C/C++ error: call of overloaded ‘abs(uint32_t)’ is ambiguous


You are trying to compile a C/C++ program but you see an error message like

src\main.cpp:127:21: error: call of overloaded 'abs(uint32_t)' is ambiguous

that refers to a line like

long timedelta = abs(millis() - startTime);


Cast the argument to abs() to int or another suitable type:

long timedelta = abs(((int)millis() - startTime));

That should fix the error.

The reason for the error message is that millis() and startTime are both unsigned integers (uint32_t), hence their difference (millis() - startTime) is also an uint32_t. However it makes no sense to compute the abs() of an unsigned integer since the absolute value of an absolute-value integer is  always the same as the input argument.

Then, the compiler tries to cast the uint32_t to any type that is compatible with abs(), like int, float, double, … but it doesn’t know which of those types is the correct one to cast it to.

By saying call of overloaded abs() the compiler is trying to tell you that there are multBiple argument types with which you can call abs(), including intfloat, double, … – a function with the same name but different argument types is called overloaded.

By saying is ambiguous, the compiler is telling you that it doesn’t know which of those variants of abs() it should call.

Note that the compiler does not know that all overloaded variants of abs() fundamentally do the same thing, so it won’t just cast your uint32_t into any arbitrary type. Also, there are tiny details in how the abs() variants work – for example, float abs(float) will do a different calculation compared to double abs(double) since it computes with 32-bit floating point numbers (float) as opposed to 64-bit floating point numbers (double).

Hence, the compiler can’t just assume that they are all the same and it doesn’t matter which one it calls, even though they represent the same underlying mathematical operation