Are 'function-name and (function function-name) completely equivalent, or are there conditions under which I must use the more verbose (function function-name)?

(apply 'message ( list "call func via quote"))
(apply (function message) (list "call func via function keyword"))

Both of them yield the same effect. But in many elisp libraries, i am seeing people using (function func) to pass function symbols like in this example.

(defun dired-add-file (filename &optional marker-char)
   (file-name-directory filename) (file-name-nondirectory filename)
   (function dired-add-entry) filename marker-char))

Why do people use more verbose way, when they can use just a quote?

  • I rephrased the question somewhat so that it would not get dinged for subjectivity. If I misunderstood your intent, we can roll back the edit.
    – Dan
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 0:41
  • This is a nice explanation on the difference between #' (aka function) and ': endlessparentheses.com/…. Basically, as C-h f function says: "In byte compilation, function causes its argument to be compiled. quote can not do that. IMHO, just use #' rather than '.
    – omajid
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 1:08

1 Answer 1


'foo and (quote foo) are identical: they prevent evaluation of foo.

#'foo and (function foo) are also identical: they extract the function binding of foo, including at compile time, which means that the function gets compiled.

So, if you want a symbol, use 'foo:

(make-variable-buffer-local 'my-local-var)

if you want a function, use #'foo:

(setq my-after-function #'my-function)


(apply #'my-function arg1 arg2 others)

See also

  1. When to use 'quote in Lisp
  2. Why sharp quote lambda expressions?
  • #'foo and (function foo) don't extract the function binding, they just return a symbol. Just try this to get convinced: (type-of (function type-of)) (type-of (symbol-function (function type-of)))
    – memeplex
    Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 2:55
  • @memeplex: only in Emacs Lisp and only at this time. Things may change. ;-)
    – sds
    Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 3:01
  • @memeplex: even simpler: (eq 'type-of (function type-of)) => t ;)
    – duthen
    Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 10:15

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