In this example, there is a cons-cell (foo . bar) which needs a two (2) step approach so that it can be copied using copy-sequence:

  • First, there needs to be a test to identify this particular type of cons-cell (foo . bar) so that the transformation function(s) are not unnecessarily applied to lists that are of a different form.

  • Second, once this particular type of cons-cell is identified, the cons-cell needs to be transformed into a list that copy-sequence will accept.

How can this be accomplished?

  • Using your test in the first comment, and then creating the new list in your second comment, resolves the issue -- thank you very much! I will also play with proper-list-p, which I haven't tried before. Greatly appreciated. I'm operating a sort function, which is destructive and I'd like to keep a copy of the original list for later use.
    – lawlist
    Feb 4, 2022 at 3:52
  • Comments now converted to an answer.
    – phils
    Feb 4, 2022 at 12:05

1 Answer 1


You have your test right there in the error message:

(copy-sequence (cons 'foo 'bar))
=> Lisp error: (wrong-type-argument listp bar)

I.e. for a cons cell CONS the test is:

(listp (cdr CONS))

You can also use (proper-list-p CONS) as a test, if you want to detect improper lists in general; but your example is more specific than this.

When your test fails, you could create a list from its components with:

(list (car CONS) (cdr CONS))

There's no point to calling copy-sequence on that, though -- you've already generated a new structure containing the values.

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