Pantrypoints Pantrypoints

Anonymous functions

August 22, 2023 2 minutes  • 396 words
Table of contents

These store and pass executable functions around as if it was an integer or a string. They start with fn and end with end

Setting the anonymous function

variable_that_holds_the_function = fn variable1, variable2, variable3 -> variable1 + variable2 + variable3 end

with Capture Operator & as Shortcut

variable_that_holds_the_function = &(&variable1 + &variable2 + &variable3)

def adder(n), do: &(&1 + n)

adder = Calc.adder(6)  		# This is n
assert adder.(9) === 15   	# This is &1

Calling the anonymous function

variable_that_holds_the_function.(data1, data2, data3)

Static variables set within the anoynmous function will reference that static variable in memory.

add = fn a, b -> a + b end
#Function<12.71889879/2 in :erl_eval.expr/5>

add.(1, 2)


The anonymous function is fn.

  • It gets 2 arguments: a and b
  • It returns the result of a + b

fn is stored in the variable add.

A dot between the variable and parentheses is required to invoke an anonymous function.

  • It prevents add/1 or add/2

Anonymous Functions vs Named Functions

Anonymous Functions are identified by the number of arguments they get.

A function can be checked for arity via is_function/2:

Check if add is a function that expects exactly 2 arguments

is_function(add, 2)

Check if add is a function that expects exactly 1 argument

is_function(add, 1)

Anonymous functions can also access variables that are in scope when the function is defined.

This is typically referred to as closures, as they close over their scope.

add = fn a, b -> a + b end

double = fn a -> add.(a, a) end
#Function<6.71889879/1 in :erl_eval.expr/5>


A variable assigned inside a function does not affect its surrounding environment.

x = 42

(fn -> x = 0 end).()



enclosed in Modules

def function_name(argument_name) do

def function_name(argument_name\\ "default-value-if-no-argument-name-is-given") do

Anonymous Functions


function_name = fn(argument1, argument2, argument3..) -> argument1 + argument2 + argument3.. end


square = fn(x) -> x * x end
function_name = fn(a,b,c,d) -> (a,b,c,d)
function_name = &(&1 + &2 + &3 + &4)
function_name = &(ModuleName.another_function/4)


function_name.(4) #anonymous function
function_name(4) #named function

Capture Operator: Shortcut for those lazy to write code

&1 is the shortcut for the arguments in fn(x..) -> x..

&1 #represents or captures the first argument 
&2 #represents or captures the second argument


function_name = &(&1 * &2)
&(Module.function_name/1) #shortcut for the whole Module
var_too_lazy_to_type_module = &(LongNamedModule.long_named_function/100)
Follow Us! →

We're creating a new Economic System from a new Economic Science! Please support us by leaving your email or leaving a comment above.