I apologize if this is a dumb question, but I'm just starting out in ELisp, and I'm wondering how you pronounce the word 'sexp'.

I.e., if I was talking to someone, how does one say this word?

  • 6
    I usually say "Es expression", even if I write "sexp".
    – NickD
    Jun 20, 2018 at 18:54

4 Answers 4


This isn't really an answer, but...

if I was talking to someone, how does one say this word?

I tend to pronounce it "form" :)

C-hig (elisp)Intro Eval says:

A Lisp object that is intended for evaluation is called a “form” or “expression”(1).

(1) It is sometimes also referred to as an “S-expression” or “sexp”, but we generally do not use this terminology in this manual.

This approach tends to circumvent the problem you're probably trying to avoid.

Otherwise, like NickD, I would normally say "ess expression".

I would add that if you absolutely need to pronounce "sexp" as written, you're probably talking to someone who already knows what that is and isn't going to bat an eyelid at any of the possible ways you might say it.


I never heard this word enunciated, despite using Lisp for over quarter of a century.

I always pronounce it "sexp", like it is written. The "p" is not very loud.

  • 1
    Ditto. For me, it's just a normal English word ;-), pronounced as it would be normally.
    – Drew
    Jun 20, 2018 at 21:13

Peter Glickstein, in a footnote on p. 9 of Writing GNU Emacs Extensions, says the following about the pronunciation of "sexp":

Pronounced "sex pee."  Unfortunately.

Unfortunate indeed.

  • 5
    Please, let us all say "no".
    – NickD
    Jun 20, 2018 at 18:55
  • 1
    I support @NickD.... It looks like S Expression so it must be S expression Jun 20, 2018 at 20:49

Expanding it to "symbolic expression", which is its meaning.

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