A small, fast, native lisp with "magical" powers
Alternatives To Pixie
Select To Compare


Build Status License: LGPL


Join the chat at https://gitter.im/pixie-lang/pixie


Pixie is a lightweight lisp suitable for both general use as well as shell scripting. The language is still in a "pre-alpha" phase and as such changes fairly quickly. The standard library is heavily inspired by Clojure as well as several other functional programming languages. It is written in RPython (http://pypy.readthedocs.org/en/latest/coding-guide.html) and as such supports a fairly fast GC and an amazingly fast tracing JIT.


Some planned and implemented features:

  • Immutable datastructures
  • Protocols first implementation
  • Transducers at-the-bottom (most primitives are based off of reduce)
  • A "good enough" JIT (implemented, tuning still a WIP, but not bad performance today)
  • Easy FFI
  • Pattern matching (TODO)



make build_with_jit

Note: Mac OS X does not come with the build tools required by default. Install the XCode Command Line tools (Apple Developer Site) or install them independently.

Running the tests

./pixie-vm run-tests.pxi


There are examples in the /examples directory. Try out "Hello World" with:


Build Tool

Pixie now comes with a build tool called dust. Try it and start making magic of your own.


So this is written in Python?

It's actually written in RPython, the same language PyPy is written in. make build_with_jit will compile Pixie using the PyPy toolchain. After some time, it will produce an executable called pixie-vm. This executable is a full blown native interpreter with a JIT, GC, etc. So yes, the guts are written in RPython, just like the guts of most lisp interpreters are written in C. At runtime the only thing that is interpreted is the Pixie bytecode, that is until the JIT kicks in...

What's this bit about "magical powers"?

First of all, the word "magic" is in quotes as it's partly a play on words, pixies are small, light and often considered to have magical powers.

However there are a few features of pixie that although may not be uncommon, are perhaps unexpected from a lisp.

  • Pixie implements its own virtual machine. It does not run on the JVM, CLR or Python VM. It implements its own bytecode, has its own GC and JIT. And it's small. Currently the interpreter, JIT, GC, and stdlib clock in at about 10.3MB once compiled down to an executable.

  • The JIT makes some things fast. Very fast. Code like the following compiles down to a loop with 6 CPU instructions. While this may not be too impressive for any language that uses a tracing jit, it is fairly unique for a language as young as Pixie.

;;  This code adds up to 10000 from 0 via calling a function that takes a variable number of arguments.
;;  That function then reduces over the argument list to add up all given arguments.

(defn add-fn [& args]
  (reduce -add 0 args))

(loop [x 0]
  (if (eq x 10000)
    (recur (add-fn x 1))))

  • Math system is fully polymorphic. Math primitives (+,-, etc.) are built off of polymorphic functions that dispatch on the types of the first two arguments. This allows the math system to be extended to complex numbers, matrices, etc. The performance penalty of such a polymorphic call is completely removed by the RPython generated JIT.

(Planned "magical" Features)

  • Influencing the JIT from user code. (Still in research) Eventually it would be nice to allow Pixie to hint to the JIT that certain values are constants, that certain functions are pure, etc. This can all be done from inside RPython, and the plan is to expose parts of that to the user via hints in the Pixie language, to what extent this will be possible is not yet known.

  • STM for parallelism. Once STM gets merged into the mainline branch of PyPy, we'll adopt it pretty quickly.

  • CSP for concurrency. We already have stacklets, it's not that hard to use them for CSP style concurrency as well.

Where do the devs hangout?

Mostly on FreeNode at #pixie-lang stop by and say "hello".


We have a very open contribution process. If you have a feature you'd like to implement, submit a PR or file an issue and we'll see what we can do. Most PRs are either rejected (if there is a technical flaw) or accepted within a day, so send an improvement our way and see what happens.

Implementation Notes

Although parts of the language may be very close to Clojure (they are both lisps after all), language parity is not a design goal. We will take the features from Clojure or other languages that are suitable to our needs, and feel free to reject those that aren't. Therefore this should not be considered a "Clojure Dialect", but instead a "Clojure inspired lisp".


This project is the personal work of Timothy Baldridge and contributors. It is not supported by any entity, including Timothy's employer, or any employers of any other contributors.


Free use of this software is granted under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL). For details see the files COPYING and COPYING.LESSER included with the source distribution. All copyrights are owned by their respective authors.

Popular Compilers Categories

Get A Weekly Email With Trending Projects For These Categories
No Spam. Unsubscribe easily at any time.