View Source Introduction

This section is the Erlang reference manual. It describes the Erlang programming language.


The focus of the Erlang reference manual is on the language itself, not the implementation of it. The language constructs are described in text and with examples rather than formally specified. This is to make the manual more readable. The Erlang reference manual is not intended as a tutorial.

Information about implementation of Erlang can, for example, be found, in the following:


It is assumed that the reader has done some programming and is familiar with concepts such as data types and programming language syntax.

Document Conventions

In this section, the following terminology is used:

  • A sequence is one or more items. For example, a clause body consists of a sequence of expressions. This means that there must be at least one expression.
  • A list is any number of items. For example, an argument list can consist of zero, one, or more arguments.

If a feature has been added in R13A or later, this is mentioned in the text.

Complete List of BIFs

For a complete list of BIFs, their arguments and return values, see module erlang in ERTS.

Reserved Words

The following are reserved words in Erlang:

after and andalso band begin bnot bor bsl bsr bxor case catch cond div else end fun if let maybe not of or orelse receive rem try when xor

Note: cond and let, while reserved, are currently not used by the language.


maybe is a reserved word only if feature maybe_expr is enabled. In Erlang/OTP 25 and 26, maybe_expr is disabled by default. Starting from Erlang/OTP 27, maybe_expr is enabled by default.