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gluon-lang / gluon


A static, type inferred and embeddable language written in Rust.



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Gluon is a small, statically-typed, functional programming language designed for application embedding.


  • Statically typed - Static typing makes it easier to write safe and efficient interfaces between gluon and the host application.

  • Type inference - Type inference ensures that types rarely have to be written explicitly giving all the benefits of static types with none of the typing.

  • Simple embedding - Marshalling values to and from gluon requires next to no boilerplate, allowing functions defined in Rust to be directly passed to gluon.

  • UTF-8 by default - Gluon supports unicode out of the box with utf-8 encoded strings and unicode codepoints as characters.

  • Separate heaps - Gluon is a garbage-collected language but uses a separate heap for each executing gluon thread. This keeps each heap small, reducing the overhead of the garbage collector.

  • Thread safe - Gluon is written in Rust, which guarantees thread safety. Gluon keeps the same guarantees, allowing multiple gluon programs to run in parallel (example)*

* Parallel execution of gluon programs is a recent addition and may still have issues such as deadlocks.


Try online

You can try gluon in your browser at the try_gluon server. (Github)



Gluon requires a recent Rust compiler to build (1.9.0 or later) and is available at It can easily be included in a Cargo project by adding the lines below.

gluon = "0.5.0"

Other languages

Currently the easiest way to interact with the gluon virtual machine is through Rust but a rudimentary C api exists which will be extended in the future to bring it closer to the Rust api.


Visual Studio Code Extension

The gluon extension for Visual Studio Code provides syntax highlighting and completion. To install it, search for gluon among the extensions. (Github)



Gluon has a small executable which can be used to run gluon programs directly or in a small REPL. The REPL can be started by passing the -i flag to the built repl executable which can be run with cargo run -- -i.

REPL features:

  • Evaluating expressions (expressions of type IO will be evaluated in the IO context).

  • Bind variables by writing let <pattern> <identifier>* = <expr> (omitting in <expr> from a normal let binding) Example:

       let f x = x + 1
       let { x, y = z } = { x = 1, y = 2 }
       f z
  • Printing help about available commands with :h

  • Loading files with :l path_to_file the result of evaluating the expression in the loaded file is stored in a variable named after the filename without an extension.

  • Checking the types of expressions with :t expression

  • Printing information about a name with :i name.

    :i std.prelude.List
    type std.prelude.List a = | Nil | Cons a (std.prelude.List a)
    /// A linked list type
  • Tab-completion of identifiers and record fields repl completion

  • Exit the REPL by writing :q

Vim plugin

vim-gluon is a vim plugin which provides basic syntax highlighting and indentation.


Tutorial (WIP)



Hello world

io.print "Hello world!"


let factorial n : Int -> Int =
    if n < 2
    then 1
    else n * factorial (n - 1)

factorial 10


Larger example which display most if not all of the syntactical elements in the language.

// `let` declares new variables.
let id x = x

let factorial n =
        if n < 2
        then 1
        else n * factorial (n - 1)

// `type` is used to declare a new type.
// In this case we declare `Countable` to be a record with a single field (count) which is a function
// taking a single argument and returning an integer
type Countable a = { count : a -> Int }

// "Counting" an integer just means returning the integer itself
let countable_Int : Countable Int = { count = \x -> x }

let list_module =
    // Declare a new type which only exists in the current scope
    type List a = | Cons a (List a) | Nil
    let map f xs =
            match xs with
                | Cons y ys -> Cons (f y) (map f ys)
                | Nil -> Nil
    // Define a count instance over lists which counts each of the elements and sums
    // the results
    let countable_List c : Countable a -> Countable (List a) =
        let count xs =
            match xs with
            | Cons y ys -> c.count y + count ys
            | Nil -> 0
        { count }
        // Since `List` is local we export it so its constructors can be used
        // outside the current scope

// Bring the `List` type and its constructors into scope
let { List, countable_List } = list_module

// Create a `Countable` record for `List Int`
let { count } : Countable (List Int) = countable_List countable_Int

if count (Cons 20 (Cons 22 Nil)) == 41 then
    error "This branch is not executed"
    io.print "Hello world!"


There are many ways to contribute to gluon. The two simplest ways are opening issues or working on issues marked as beginner. For more extensive information about contributing, you can look at


These goals may change or be refined over time as I experiment with what is possible with the language.

  • Embeddable - Similiar to Lua - it is meant to be included in another program which may use the virtual machine to extend its own functionality.

  • Statically typed - The language uses a Hindley-Milner based type system with some extensions, allowing simple and general type inference.

  • Tiny - By being tiny, the language is easy to learn and has a small implementation footprint.

  • Strict - Strict languages are usually easier to reason about, especially considering that it is what most people are accustomed to. For cases where laziness is desired, an explict type is provided.

  • Modular - The library is split into parser, typechecker, and virtual machine + compiler. Each of these components can be use independently of each other, allowing applications to pick and choose exactly what they need.


This language takes its primary inspiration from Lua, Haskell and OCaml.