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CLISP is a multi-platform, open source Common Lisp interpreter originally developed in 68000 assembly language by Bruno Haible and Michael Stoll for the Atari ST and released in 1987, the interpreter was re-written in C in 1992 and released for Linux, and OS/2 + DOS via EMX and has since been ported to a whole host of platforms, the basic interpreter is still written in C but large portions of the system are also written in itself.

CLISP is one of the more competent open source LISP packages out there although considerably slower than commercial variants, releases 2.22 and later are relatively complete Common Lisp implementations and support both the original DoD (+Kyoto) and ANSI standards plus a number of extensions, CLISP is also one of the few development systems maintained on UNIX like systems that tries to support Unicode in a meaningful way.

Development of the package started to slow down around the turn of the century, the original author stopped working on the program in 2005 and all development effectively stopped in 2009, development of the OS/2 version had ceased considerably earlier and some OS/2 and Windows specific GUI code was removed from the codebase so an updated OS/2 version is unlikely although not an impossibility. While it is one of the more stable LISP variant out there and the most complete open source LISP package out there it is also rather slow and is as a rule constantly in last place in independent benchmarks.


Since its original release the system has grown a number of features, including a bytecode compiler, a high-level interface to other programming languages, a debugger and a socket interface. It also supports two object systems, Common Lisp Object System (CLOS) inherent in the Common Lisp standard and a metaobject protocol (MOP) based on the model described in the book The Art of the Metaobject Protocol and largely compatible with PCL.


  • clisp-2.28 (2002-03-03) - last OS/2 version
  • clisp-2.49 (2010) - last version


  • CLISP is an open source software package released under the GPL v2
  • CLISP was not intended to be an open source program originally, when it was released as a Linux binary in 1992 the authors had linked to a single GPL'd library without realising it was one, which meant they were forced to release the whole package under the GPL license. The GNU crowd took to calling it GNU CLSIP and GNU Common Lisp but relations between the FSF and some of the CLISP maintainers remained somewhat cold, but when the main maintainer of Austin Kyoto Common Lisp died in 2001 GNU converted the name of the package to GNU Common Lisp (even though the public domain status of some of the software in the AKCL package is strongly disputed) and have concentrated on developing that package even though CLISP is more advanced in most ways.
  • Bruno Haible
  • Michael Stoll


  • Gregor Kiczales, Jim des Rivieres, Daniel G. Bobrow: The Art of the Metaobject Protocol - MIT Press 1991, ISBN 026261074