Are there reflection methods available in elisp to examine the stack without invoking the debugger?

For example:

  • Get the calling/callee function
  • Get the function call stack
  • Get the (longer) nested statement stack
  • Get arguments for any of the above

An aside: In my search for applicable features/functions/variables I was surprised to learn that elisp does not (natively) perform tail call optimization! Presumably elisp does then maintain a complete stack.

  • 1
    See called-interactively-p for a function doing this. I generally recommend against doing such a thing as it's error-prone, incredibly hard to read and lispy languages don't have the need for it.
    – wasamasa
    Jun 10, 2016 at 8:03

1 Answer 1


Short answer : the function backtrace-frame should be what you want.

How did I find this ? Well, here are the steps :

  1. invoke the elisp info manual (my favourite way is C-h r TAB RET), then
  2. search stack in the index via i stack RET.

The first result brings you to (info "(elisp) Internals of Debugger") which mentions backtrace-frame. I think this has all you want.

You can also look at the implementation of the debugger in debug.el, e.g. with M-x find-function RET debug RET if you have the sources installed.

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