This manual page is part of the POSIX Programmer's Manual. The Linux
implementation of this interface may differ (consult the
corresponding Linux manual page for details of Linux behavior), or
the interface may not be implemented on Linux.
The functionality described on this reference page is aligned with
the ISO C standard. Any conflict between the requirements described
here and the ISO C standard is unintentional. This volume of
POSIX.1‐2008 defers to the ISO C standard.
The <stdarg.h> header shall contain a set of macros which allows
portable functions that accept variable argument lists to be written.
Functions that have variable argument lists (such as printf()) but do
not use these macros are inherently non-portable, as different
systems use different argument-passing conventions.
The <stdarg.h> header shall define the va_list type for variables
used to traverse the list.
The va_start() macro is invoked to initialize ap to the beginning of
the list before any calls to va_arg().
The va_copy() macro initializes dest as a copy of src, as if the
va_start() macro had been applied to dest followed by the same
sequence of uses of the va_arg() macro as had previously been used to
reach the present state of src. Neither the va_copy() nor va_start()
macro shall be invoked to reinitialize dest without an intervening
invocation of the va_end() macro for the same dest.
The object ap may be passed as an argument to another function; if
that function invokes the va_arg() macro with parameter ap, the value
of ap in the calling function is unspecified and shall be passed to
the va_end() macro prior to any further reference to ap. The
parameter argN is the identifier of the rightmost parameter in the
variable parameter list in the function definition (the one just
before the ...). If the parameter argN is declared with the register
storage class, with a function type or array type, or with a type
that is not compatible with the type that results after application
of the default argument promotions, the behavior is undefined.
The va_arg() macro shall return the next argument in the list pointed
to by ap. Each invocation of va_arg() modifies ap so that the values
of successive arguments are returned in turn. The type parameter
shall be a type name specified such that the type of a pointer to an
object that has the specified type can be obtained simply by
postfixing a '*' to type. If there is no actual next argument, or if
type is not compatible with the type of the actual next argument (as
promoted according to the default argument promotions), the behavior
is undefined, except for the following cases:
* One type is a signed integer type, the other type is the
corresponding unsigned integer type, and the value is
representable in both types.
* One type is a pointer to void and the other is a pointer to a
* Both types are pointers.
Different types can be mixed, but it is up to the routine to know
what type of argument is expected.
The va_end() macro is used to clean up; it invalidates ap for use
(unless va_start() or va_copy() is invoked again).
Each invocation of the va_start() and va_copy() macros shall be
matched by a corresponding invocation of the va_end() macro in the
Multiple traversals, each bracketed by va_start() ... va_end(), are
The following sections are informative.
It is up to the calling routine to communicate to the called routine
how many arguments there are, since it is not always possible for the
called routine to determine this in any other way. For example,
execl() is passed a null pointer to signal the end of the list. The
printf() function can tell how many arguments are there by the format
Portions of this text are reprinted and reproduced in electronic form
from IEEE Std 1003.1, 2013 Edition, Standard for Information
Technology -- Portable Operating System Interface (POSIX), The Open
Group Base Specifications Issue 7, Copyright (C) 2013 by the
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc and The Open
Group. (This is POSIX.1-2008 with the 2013 Technical Corrigendum 1
applied.) In the event of any discrepancy between this version and
the original IEEE and The Open Group Standard, the original IEEE and
The Open Group Standard is the referee document. The original
Standard can be obtained online at http://www.unix.org/online.html .
Any typographical or formatting errors that appear in this page are
most likely to have been introduced during the conversion of the
source files to man page format. To report such errors, see
IEEE/The Open Group 2013 stdarg.h(0P)