Is require idempotent? i.e. do

(require 'helm)


(require 'helm)
(require 'helm)

end with the same result?

2 Answers 2


Yes. From Named Features (emphasis mine):

A feature name is a symbol that stands for a collection of functions, variables, etc. The file that defines them should provide the feature. Another program that uses them may ensure they are defined by requiring the feature. This loads the file of definitions if it hasn't been loaded already.

To require the presence of a feature, call require with the feature name as argument. require looks in the global variable features to see whether the desired feature has been provided already. If not, it loads the feature from the appropriate file. This file should call provide at the top level to add the feature to features; if it fails to do so, require signals an error.

  • Accepted for quoting the docs.
    – PythonNut
    Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 18:19
  • Please incorporate the information from Gilles's answer here. Or, @Gilles, putting this answer into yours would work, too.
    – daveloyall
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 20:33

Yes, provided that the code in helm.el or helm.elc respects the rule that it must call (provide 'helm). The call (provide 'helm) marks the symbol helm as a loaded feature, and this causes the second call to (require 'helm) to do nothing.

If the loaded package does not call provide then require signals an error, and the feature is not marked as loaded, so a second call to (require 'helm) would attempt the loading again (and typically fail again for the same reason).

  • +1 Thanks for the extra info. It resolved my confusion after reading the docs.
    – PythonNut
    Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 18:20

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