1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Getting Started
  3. 3. Tutorial: Guessing Game
  4. 4. Syntax and Semantics
    1. 4.1. Variable Bindings
    2. 4.2. Functions
    3. 4.3. Primitive Types
    4. 4.4. Comments
    5. 4.5. if
    6. 4.6. Loops
    7. 4.7. Vectors
    8. 4.8. Ownership
    9. 4.9. References and Borrowing
    10. 4.10. Lifetimes
    11. 4.11. Mutability
    12. 4.12. Structs
    13. 4.13. Enums
    14. 4.14. Match
    15. 4.15. Patterns
    16. 4.16. Method Syntax
    17. 4.17. Strings
    18. 4.18. Generics
    19. 4.19. Traits
    20. 4.20. Drop
    21. 4.21. if let
    22. 4.22. Trait Objects
    23. 4.23. Closures
    24. 4.24. Universal Function Call Syntax
    25. 4.25. Crates and Modules
    26. 4.26. `const` and `static`
    27. 4.27. Attributes
    28. 4.28. `type` aliases
    29. 4.29. Casting between types
    30. 4.30. Associated Types
    31. 4.31. Unsized Types
    32. 4.32. Operators and Overloading
    33. 4.33. Deref coercions
    34. 4.34. Macros
    35. 4.35. Raw Pointers
    36. 4.36. `unsafe`
  5. 5. Effective Rust
    1. 5.1. The Stack and the Heap
    2. 5.2. Testing
    3. 5.3. Conditional Compilation
    4. 5.4. Documentation
    5. 5.5. Iterators
    6. 5.6. Concurrency
    7. 5.7. Error Handling
    8. 5.8. Choosing your Guarantees
    9. 5.9. FFI
    10. 5.10. Borrow and AsRef
    11. 5.11. Release Channels
    12. 5.12. Using Rust without the standard library
  6. 6. Nightly Rust
    1. 6.1. Compiler Plugins
    2. 6.2. Inline Assembly
    3. 6.3. No stdlib
    4. 6.4. Intrinsics
    5. 6.5. Lang items
    6. 6.6. Advanced linking
    7. 6.7. Benchmark Tests
    8. 6.8. Box Syntax and Patterns
    9. 6.9. Slice Patterns
    10. 6.10. Associated Constants
    11. 6.11. Custom Allocators
  7. 7. Glossary
  8. 8. Syntax Index
  9. 9. Bibliography

Lang items

Note: lang items are often provided by crates in the Rust distribution, and lang items themselves have an unstable interface. It is recommended to use officially distributed crates instead of defining your own lang items.

The rustc compiler has certain pluggable operations, that is, functionality that isn't hard-coded into the language, but is implemented in libraries, with a special marker to tell the compiler it exists. The marker is the attribute #[lang = "..."] and there are various different values of ..., i.e. various different 'lang items'.

For example, Box pointers require two lang items, one for allocation and one for deallocation. A freestanding program that uses the Box sugar for dynamic allocations via malloc and free:

#![feature(lang_items, box_syntax, start, libc)]
#![no_std]

extern crate libc;

extern {
    fn abort() -> !;
}

#[lang = "owned_box"]
pub struct Box<T>(*mut T);

#[lang = "exchange_malloc"]
unsafe fn allocate(size: usize, _align: usize) -> *mut u8 {
    let p = libc::malloc(size as libc::size_t) as *mut u8;

    // malloc failed
    if p as usize == 0 {
        abort();
    }

    p
}

#[lang = "exchange_free"]
unsafe fn deallocate(ptr: *mut u8, _size: usize, _align: usize) {
    libc::free(ptr as *mut libc::c_void)
}

#[lang = "box_free"]
unsafe fn box_free<T>(ptr: *mut T) {
    deallocate(ptr as *mut u8, ::core::mem::size_of::<T>(), ::core::mem::align_of::<T>());
}

#[start]
fn main(argc: isize, argv: *const *const u8) -> isize {
    let x = box 1;

    0
}

#[lang = "eh_personality"] extern fn rust_eh_personality() {}
#[lang = "panic_fmt"] extern fn rust_begin_panic() -> ! { loop {} }Run

Note the use of abort: the exchange_malloc lang item is assumed to return a valid pointer, and so needs to do the check internally.

Other features provided by lang items include:

Lang items are loaded lazily by the compiler; e.g. if one never uses Box then there is no need to define functions for exchange_malloc and exchange_free. rustc will emit an error when an item is needed but not found in the current crate or any that it depends on.