Given an elisp function or macro, does Emacs provide any way of finding callers?

Currently I'm just grepping in ~/.emacs.d for examples, but it's crude. Slime has slime-who-references but the excellent elisp-slime-nav doesn't seem to have an equivalent command.

  • Finding callers where? What context do you want to search? The problem is not defined sufficiently.
    – Drew
    Aug 3, 2016 at 5:02
  • github.com/vapniks/simple-call-tree may be of interest
    – npostavs
    Aug 3, 2016 at 12:25
  • @Drew ideally callers anywhere in the code loaded in my current Emacs instance. Aug 3, 2016 at 14:09
  • load-history tells you what the explicitly loaded libraries are. You can search (grep or otherwise) those libraries. (But my crystal ball whispers to me that there is a question behind your question as posed. Why do you want to find all callers?)
    – Drew
    Aug 3, 2016 at 14:47
  • @Drew: When looking at an unfamiliar function/macro, I want to see some examples of it being used. This helps me understand whether I'm using it correctly. Aug 3, 2016 at 15:06

2 Answers 2


I don't believe it's even possible. Elisp has dynamic scope, any symbol can be rebound to anything (and it is being used and abused as you know.) So nothing is known statically.

I do the same, I mean grepping. I use silver-searcher and helm variations a lot around it, including helm-swoop to make the grepping more palatable, and I am always on a lookout for ways to improve it, but I guess at the fundamental level text/regexp search is what we have to deal with.

  • That's right. For example, I have calls to a number of built ins in my init file. How is anything you run on your machine going to know that?
    – MAP
    Aug 3, 2016 at 5:07
  • Increasing elisp packages are using lexical scope. A simple implementation that called read would be smarter than grepping though, as it wouldn't confuse foo-bar with foo, or strings/comments. Aug 3, 2016 at 14:13
  • 1

I've written a package that does this! refs.el, semantic search for elisp.

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