What is LISP?

1.4 min readCategories: Programming LanguagePublished On: April 14, 2022Last Updated: November 29, 2022

What is LISP?

The Lisp language is the oldest high-level programming language, after FORTRAN. Lisp was developed by John McCarthy while at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1958. Lisp is a language used for programming artificial intelligence (AI). All computation is expressed in LISP as a function of at least one object. An object can be another function, a data item, or a data structure. At present, Common Lisp, Scheme, Racket, and Clojure are the most commonly known dialects.

Lisp is primarily a list-based language, as its name implies. Since Lisp programs are themselves lists, they are well suited to generating other Lisp programs.

Lisp was originally developed for artificial intelligence research, particularly to present the mathematical notation for symbolic computations. After the language gained popularity, it was used primarily for artificial intelligence research by computer scientist John McCarthy, who is generally credited with originating artificial intelligence. Through the years, the language has proven to be useful. The Lisp language introduced many popular theoretical computer science ideas and concepts, including automatic storage management, dynamic typing, and self-hosting compilers. The most popular practical Lisp specifications that are still used for software development are Common Lisp and Scheme.


Characteristics of LISP Language

  • The LISP language supports automatic memory management.
  • The LISP language is a functional language. The syntax and semantics of recursive functions are derived from mathematics.
  • All data are in the form of symbolic expressions or S-expressions.
  • LISP treats everything as a function. Functions are procedures that may or may not have arguments and always return a value.
  • It offers the greatest facility to an ES builder.
  • It can interpret and execute programs written in form of expressions.


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