(lispref.info)Anonymous Functions


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Anonymous Functions
===================

   In Lisp, a function is a list that starts with `lambda' (or
alternatively a primitive subr-object); names are "extra".  Although
usually functions are defined with `defun' and given names at the same
time, it is occasionally more concise to use an explicit lambda
expression--an anonymous function.  Such a list is valid wherever a
function name is.

   Any method of creating such a list makes a valid function.  Even
this:

     (setq silly (append '(lambda (x)) (list (list '+ (* 3 4) 'x))))
          => (lambda (x) (+ 12 x))

This computes a list that looks like `(lambda (x) (+ 12 x))' and makes
it the value (*not* the function definition!) of `silly'.

   Here is how we might call this function:

     (funcall silly 1)
          => 13

(It does *not* work to write `(silly 1)', because this function is not
the *function definition* of `silly'.  We have not given `silly' any
function definition, just a value as a variable.)

   Most of the time, anonymous functions are constants that appear in
your program.  For example, you might want to pass one as an argument
to the function `mapcar', which applies any given function to each
element of a list.  Here we pass an anonymous function that multiplies
a number by two:

     (defun double-each (list)
       (mapcar '(lambda (x) (* 2 x)) list))
          => double-each
     (double-each '(2 11))
          => (4 22)

In such cases, we usually use the special form `function' instead of
simple quotation to quote the anonymous function.

 - Special Form: function FUNCTION-OBJECT
     This special form returns FUNCTION-OBJECT without evaluating it.
     In this, it is equivalent to `quote'.  However, it serves as a
     note to the Emacs Lisp compiler that FUNCTION-OBJECT is intended
     to be used only as a function, and therefore can safely be
     compiled.  Note: Quoting, for comparison.

   Using `function' instead of `quote' makes a difference inside a
function or macro that you are going to compile.  For example:

     (defun double-each (list)
       (mapcar (function (lambda (x) (* 2 x))) list))
          => double-each
     (double-each '(2 11))
          => (4 22)

If this definition of `double-each' is compiled, the anonymous function
is compiled as well.  By contrast, in the previous definition where
ordinary `quote' is used, the argument passed to `mapcar' is the
precise list shown:

     (lambda (arg) (+ arg 5))

The Lisp compiler cannot assume this list is a function, even though it
looks like one, since it does not know what `mapcar' does with the
list.  Perhaps `mapcar' will check that the CAR of the third element is
the symbol `+'!  The advantage of `function' is that it tells the
compiler to go ahead and compile the constant function.

   We sometimes write `function' instead of `quote' when quoting the
name of a function, but this usage is just a sort of comment.

     (function SYMBOL) == (quote SYMBOL) == 'SYMBOL

   See `documentation' in Note: Accessing Documentation, for a
realistic example using `function' and an anonymous function.


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