1.7. Functions

Functions are first class values like integer or strings and can be stored in table slots, local variables, arrays and passed as function parameters. Functions can be implemented in Quirrel or in a native language with calling conventions compatible with ANSI C.

1.7.1. Function declaration

A local function can be declared with this function expression:

function tuna(a,b,c) {
    return a+b-c;


let function tuna(a,b,c) {
    return a+b-c;

that is equivalent to:

let tuna = function tuna(a,b,c) {
    return a+b-c;
} Default Paramaters

Quirrel’s functions can have default parameters.

A function with default parameters is declared as follows:

function test(a, b, c = 10, d = 20) {

when the function test is invoked and the parameter c or d are not specified, the VM autometically assigns the default value to the unspecified parameter. A default parameter can be any valid quirrel expression. The expression is evaluated at runtime. Function with variable number of paramaters

Quirrel’s functions can have variable number of parameters (varargs functions).

A vararg function is declared by adding three dots (...) at the end of its parameter list.

When the function is called all the extra parameters will be accessible through the array called vargv, that is passed as implicit parameter.

vargv is a regular quirrel array and can be used accordingly.:

function test(a,b,...) {

    for (local i = 0; i< vargv.len(); i++) {
        println($"varparam {i} = {vargv[i]}")
    foreach (i,val in vargv) {
        println($"varparam {i} = {val}")

test("goes in a","goes in b",0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1.7.2. Function calls

exp:= derefexp '(' explist ')'

The expression is evaluated in this order: derefexp after the explist (arguments) and at the end the call.

A function call in Quirrel passes the current environment object this as a hidden parameter. But when the function was immediately indexed from an object, this shall be the object which was indexed, instead.

If we call a function with the syntax:


the environment object passed to ‘foo’ as this will be ‘mytable’ (since ‘foo’ was immediately indexed from ‘mytable’)

Whereas with the syntax:

foo(x,y) // implicitly equivalent to this.foo(x,y)

the environment object will be the current this (that is, propagated from the caller’s this).

It may help to remember the rules in the following way:

foo(x,y) —> this.foo(x,y)

table.foo(x,y) —> call foo with (table,x,y)

It may also help to consider why it works this way: it was initially designed to assist with object-oriented style. When calling foo(x,y) it was assumed you’re calling another member of the object (or of the file) and so should operate on the same object. When calling mytable.foo(x,y) it’s written plainly that you’re calling a member of a different object.

1.7.3. Binding an environment to a function

while by default a quirrel function call passes as environment object this, the object where the function was indexed from. However, is also possible to statically bind an evironment to a closure using the built-in method closure.bindenv(env_obj). The method bindenv() returns a new instance of a closure with the environment bound to it. When an environment object is bound to a function, every time the function is invoked, its this parameter will always be the previously bound environent. This mechanism is useful to implement callbacks systems similar to C# delegates.


The closure keeps a weak reference to the bound environmet object, because of this if the object is deleted, the next call to the closure will result in a null environment object.

1.7.4. Lambda Expressions

exp := '@' '(' paramlist ')' exp

Lambda expressions are a syntactic sugar to quickly define a function that consists of a single expression. This feature comes handy when functional programming patterns are applied, like map/reduce or passing a compare method to array.sort().

here is a lambda expression:

let myexp = @(a,b) a + b

that is equivalent to:

let myexp = function(a,b) { return a + b }

a more useful usage could be:

let arr = [2,3,5,8,3,5,1,2,6]
arr.sort(@(a,b) a <=> b)
arr.sort(@(a,b) -(a <=> b))

that could have been written as:

let arr = [2,3,5,8,3,5,1,2,6]
arr.sort(function(a,b) { return a <=> b } )
arr.sort(function(a,b) { return -(a <=> b) } )

other than being limited to a single expression lambdas support all features of regular functions. in fact are implemented as a compile time feature.

1.7.5. Free Variables

A free variable is a variable external from the function scope as is not a local variable or parameter of the function. Free variables reference a local variable from a outer scope. In the following example the variables testy, x and y are bound to the function foo.:

local x = 10
local y = 20
let testy = "I'm testy"

let function foo(a,b) {
    return a+b+x+y

A program can read or write a free variable.

1.7.6. Tail Recursion

Tail recursion is a method for partially transforming a recursion in a program into an iteration: it applies when the recursive calls in a function are the last executed statements in that function (just before the return). If this happenes the quirrel interpreter collapses the caller stack frame before the recursive call; because of that very deep recursions are possible without risk of a stack overflow.:

function loopy(n) {
    if (n > 0) {
        return loopy(n-1)