In Elixir you have anonymous functions and named functions, we’ll be covering the former in this post.

What does an anonymous function look like?

fn a, b -> a + b end #or
fn (a, b) -> a + b end

Putting it to use would look like the following:

iex> sum = fn a, b -> a + b end
iex> sum.(5, 2)
iex> sum.(10, 12)

You’ll notice the function is invoked with .() and not (). This helps to distinguish between anonymous and named functions.

You can have nested anonymous functions:

greet = fn -> fn name -> name end end
iex> person = greet.()
iex> person.("Dave")

As you can tell, the syntax can become difficult to read. Let’s make it a bit easier:

greet = 
    fn ->
        fn name ->
            IO.puts name
iex> person = greet.()
iex> person.("Dave")

Elixir does provide us with a neat little shortcut for creating anonymous functions, the & operator.

iex> sum = &(&1 + &2)
iex> sum.(4, 4)

Where &1, &1 etc. would be the parameters to use. We can also perform function capturing with the & operator. All we need is the function name and it’s parity.

iex> print_message = &IO.puts/1
iex> print_message.("Hello there!)
hello there

See you soon.