Programming Tutorials

Excellent Free Tutorials to Learn Lisp

Lisp (derives from “LISt Processing”) is one of the oldest programming languages. It was invented in 1958, with the language being conceived by John McCarthy and is based on his paper “Recursive Functions of Symbolic Expressions and Their Computation by Machine”. Over the years, Lisp has evolved into a family of programming languages. The most commonly used general-purpose dialects are Common Lisp and Scheme. Other dialects include Franz Lisp, Interlisp, Portable Standard Lisp, XLISP and Zetalisp.

The majority of Lisp implementations offer a lot more than just a programming language. They include an entire environment such as debuggers, inspectors, tracing, and other tools to add the Lisp developer. Lisp is a practical, expression-oriented, interactive programming language which uses linked lists as one of its major data structures. A Lisp list is written with its elements separated by whitespace, and surrounded by parentheses. Lisp source code is itself comprised of lists.

The language has many unique features that make it excellent to study programming constructs and data structures. Many regard Lisp as an extremely natural language to code complex symbolic reasoning programs. Lisp is popular in the fields of artificial intelligence and symbolic algebra.

Here’s our recommended tutorials to learn Lisp. If you’re looking for free Lisp programming books, check here.


1. Common Lisp Quick Reference by Bert Burgemeister

Common Lisp Quick Reference is a free booklet with short descriptions of the thousand or so symbols defined in the ANSI standard. It comes with a comprehensive index.

Read the booklet


2. Google Common Lisp Style Guide by Google

This guide recommends formatting and stylistic choices designed to make your code easier for other people to understand.

Read the guide


3. Common Lisp Koans by Stanley Bileschi

Common Lisp Koans is a language learning exercise in the same vein as the Ruby koans, Python koans and others. It is a port of the prior koans with some modifications to highlight Lisp-specific features.

Read the tutorial


4. Lisp Quickstart by Sean Luke

The goal of this tutorial is not to teach you many of those powerful features: rather it’s to teach you just enough of Lisp that you can get up and coding quickly if you have a previous background in a procedural language such as C or Java.

Read the tutorial


5. Learning Lisp for CMPT 310 by Philip Fong

The tutorials cover basic LISP programming, advanced functional programming in LISP, data abstraction in LISP, and imperative programming in LISP.

Read the tutorials


6. Common Lisp Tutorial by Sadi Evren Seker

This tutorial covers symbols, numbers, conses, lists, functions, printing, forms and the top-level loop. It then moves on to look at special forms, binding, dynamic scoping, arrays, strings, structures, setf, booleans and conditionals, iteration, and more.

Read the tutorial


All tutorials in this series:

Free Programming Tutorials
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CGeneral-purpose, procedural, portable, high-level language
PythonGeneral-purpose, structured, powerful language
C++General-purpose, portable, free-form, multi-paradigm language
C#Combines the power and flexibility of C++ with the simplicity of Visual Basic
JavaScriptInterpreted, prototype-based, scripting language
PHPPHP has been at the helm of the web for many years
RubyGeneral purpose, scripting, structured, flexible, fully object-oriented language
AssemblyAs close to writing machine code without writing in pure hexadecimal
SwiftPowerful and intuitive general-purpose programming language
GroovyPowerful, optionally typed and dynamic language
GoCompiled, statically typed programming language
PascalImperative and procedural language designed in the late 1960s
PerlHigh-level, general-purpose, interpreted, scripting, dynamic language
RDe facto standard among statisticians and data analysts
COBOLCommon Business-Oriented Language
ScalaModern, object-functional, multi-paradigm, Java-based language
FortranThe first high-level language, using the first compiler
ScratchVisual programming language designed for 8-16 year-old children
LuaDesigned as an embeddable scripting language
LogoDialect of Lisp that features interactivity, modularity, extensibility
RustIdeal for systems, embedded, and other performance critical code
LispUnique features - excellent to study programming constructs
AdaALGOL-like programming language, extended from Pascal and others
HaskellStandardized, general-purpose, polymorphically, statically typed language
SchemeGeneral-purpose, functional, language descended from Lisp and Algol
PrologGeneral purpose, declarative, logic programming language
ForthImperative stack-based programming language
ClojureDialect of the Lisp programming language
JuliaHigh-level, high-performance language for technical computing
SQLAccess and manipulate data held in a relational database management system
ErlangGeneral-purpose, concurrent, declarative, functional language
VimLPowerful scripting language of the Vim editor
OCamlGeneral-purpose, powerful, high-level language
AwkVersatile language designed for pattern scanning and processing
RacketPlatform for programming language design and implementation
BASICFamily of general-purpose, high-level programming languages
CoffeeScriptA very succinct programming language that transcompiles into JavaScript
LaTeXProfessional document preparation system and document markup language
ElixirRelatively new functional language that runs on the Erlang virtual machine
DartClient-optimized programming language for fast apps
ABAPAdvanced Business Application Programming
F#General purpose, strongly typed, multi-paradigm language. Part of ML
ChapelParallel-programming language in development at Cray Inc.
DylanMulti-paradigm language, supports functional & object-oriented programming
DGeneral-purpose systems programming language with a C-like syntax
SolidityObject-oriented, high-level language for implementing smart contracts
XMLSet of rules for defining semantic tags that describe the structure and meaning
ValaObject-oriented language with a self-hosting compiler that generates C code
ECMAScriptBest known as the language embedded in web browsers
KotlinStatically typed, general-purpose programming language with type inference
TypeScriptStrict syntactical superset of JavaScript, adding optional static typing
MarkdownPlain text formatting syntax designed to be easy-to-read and easy-to-write
PikeInterpreted, general-purpose, high-level, cross-platform, dynamic language
HTMLHyperText Markup Language
FactorDynamic stack-based language
Objective-CGeneral purpose language which is a superset of C
Standard MLOne of the two main dialects of the ML language
AliceEducational language with an integrated development environment
AgdaDependently typed functional language based on intuitionistic type theory
IconHigh-level, general-purpose language
PureScriptSmall strongly, statically typed language with expressive types
TclDynamic language based on concepts of Lisp, C, and Unix shells
EiffelObject-oriented language
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