Many functions build lists, as lists reside at the very heart of Lisp.
cons is the fundamental list-building function; however, it is
interesting to note that
list is used more times in the source
code for Emacs than
This function is the most basic function for building new list structure. It creates a new cons cell, making object1 the CAR, and object2 the CDR. It then returns the new cons cell. The arguments object1 and object2 may be any Lisp objects, but most often object2 is a list.
(cons 1 '(2)) ⇒ (1 2)
(cons 1 '()) ⇒ (1)
(cons 1 2) ⇒ (1 . 2)
cons is often used to add a single element to the front of a
list. This is called consing the element onto the list.
(setq list (cons newelt list))
Note that there is no conflict between the variable named
used in this example and the function named
list described below;
any symbol can serve both purposes.
This function creates a list with objects as its elements. The
resulting list is always
nil-terminated. If no objects
are given, the empty list is returned.
(list 1 2 3 4 5) ⇒ (1 2 3 4 5)
(list 1 2 '(3 4 5) 'foo) ⇒ (1 2 (3 4 5) foo)
(list) ⇒ nil
This function creates a list of length elements, in which each
element is object. Compare
make-string (see Creating Strings).
(make-list 3 'pigs) ⇒ (pigs pigs pigs)
(make-list 0 'pigs) ⇒ nil
(setq l (make-list 3 '(a b))) ⇒ ((a b) (a b) (a b)) (eq (car l) (cadr l)) ⇒ t
This function returns a list containing all the elements of
sequences. The sequences may be lists, vectors,
bool-vectors, or strings, but the last one should usually be a list.
All arguments except the last one are copied, so none of the arguments
is altered. (See
nconc in Rearrangement, for a way to join
lists with no copying.)
More generally, the final argument to
append may be any Lisp
object. The final argument is not copied or converted; it becomes the
CDR of the last cons cell in the new list. If the final argument
is itself a list, then its elements become in effect elements of the
result list. If the final element is not a list, the result is a
dotted list since its final CDR is not
nil as required
in a true list.
Here is an example of using
(setq trees '(pine oak)) ⇒ (pine oak) (setq more-trees (append '(maple birch) trees)) ⇒ (maple birch pine oak)
trees ⇒ (pine oak) more-trees ⇒ (maple birch pine oak)
(eq trees (cdr (cdr more-trees))) ⇒ t
You can see how
append works by looking at a box diagram. The
trees is set to the list
(pine oak) and then the
more-trees is set to the list
(maple birch pine
oak). However, the variable
trees continues to refer to the
more-trees trees | | | --- --- --- --- -> --- --- --- --- --> | | |--> | | |--> | | |--> | | |--> nil --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- | | | | | | | | --> maple -->birch --> pine --> oak
An empty sequence contributes nothing to the value returned by
append. As a consequence of this, a final
forces a copy of the previous argument:
trees ⇒ (pine oak)
(setq wood (append trees nil)) ⇒ (pine oak)
wood ⇒ (pine oak)
(eq wood trees) ⇒ nil
This once was the usual way to copy a list, before the function
copy-sequence was invented. See Sequences Arrays Vectors.
Here we show the use of vectors and strings as arguments to
(append [a b] "cd" nil) ⇒ (a b 99 100)
With the help of
apply (see Calling Functions), we can append
all the lists in a list of lists:
(apply 'append '((a b c) nil (x y z) nil)) ⇒ (a b c x y z)
If no sequences are given,
nil is returned:
(append) ⇒ nil
Here are some examples where the final argument is not a list:
(append '(x y) 'z) ⇒ (x y . z) (append '(x y) [z]) ⇒ (x y . [z])
The second example shows that when the final argument is a sequence but not a list, the sequence’s elements do not become elements of the resulting list. Instead, the sequence becomes the final CDR, like any other non-list final argument.
This function creates a new list whose elements are the elements of list, but in reverse order. The original argument list is not altered.
(setq x '(1 2 3 4)) ⇒ (1 2 3 4)
(reverse x) ⇒ (4 3 2 1) x ⇒ (1 2 3 4)
This function returns a copy of the tree
tree. If tree is a
cons cell, this makes a new cons cell with the same CAR and
CDR, then recursively copies the CAR and CDR in the
Normally, when tree is anything other than a cons cell,
copy-tree simply returns tree. However, if vecp is
nil, it copies vectors too (and operates recursively on
This returns a list of numbers starting with from and
incrementing by separation, and ending at or just before
to. separation can be positive or negative and defaults
to 1. If to is
nil or numerically equal to from,
the value is the one-element list
(from). If to is
less than from with a positive separation, or greater than
from with a negative separation, the value is
because those arguments specify an empty sequence.
If separation is 0 and to is neither
numerically equal to from,
number-sequence signals an
error, since those arguments specify an infinite sequence.
All arguments are numbers.
Floating-point arguments can be tricky, because floating-point
arithmetic is inexact. For instance, depending on the machine, it may
quite well happen that
(number-sequence 0.4 0.6 0.2) returns
the one element list
(number-sequence 0.4 0.8 0.2) returns a list with three
elements. The nth element of the list is computed by the exact
(+ from (* n separation)). Thus, if
one wants to make sure that to is included in the list, one can
pass an expression of this exact type for to. Alternatively,
one can replace to with a slightly larger value (or a slightly
more negative value if separation is negative).
(number-sequence 4 9) ⇒ (4 5 6 7 8 9) (number-sequence 9 4 -1) ⇒ (9 8 7 6 5 4) (number-sequence 9 4 -2) ⇒ (9 7 5) (number-sequence 8) ⇒ (8) (number-sequence 8 5) ⇒ nil (number-sequence 5 8 -1) ⇒ nil (number-sequence 1.5 6 2) ⇒ (1.5 3.5 5.5)
There is no strictly equivalent way to add an element to
the end of a list. You can use
(append listname (list
newelt)), which creates a whole new list by copying listname
and adding newelt to its end. Or you can use
listname (list newelt)), which modifies listname
by following all the CDRs and then replacing the terminating
nil. Compare this to adding an element to the beginning of a
cons, which neither copies nor modifies the list.