C++ [[noreturn]]



C++11 introduced the [[noreturn]] attribute. It can be used for a function to indicate that the function does not return to the caller by either executing a return statement, or by reaching the end if it's body (it is important to note that this does not apply to void functions, since they do return to the caller, they just do not return any value). Such a function may end by calling std::terminate or std::exit, or by throwing an exception. It is also worth noting that such a function can return by executing longjmp.

For instance, the function below will always either throw an exception or call std::terminate, so it is a good candidate for [[noreturn]]:

[[noreturn]] void ownAssertFailureHandler(std::string message) {
    std::cerr << message << std::endl;
        throw AssertException(std::move(message));

This kind of functionality allows the compiler to end a function without a return statement if it knows the code will never be executed. Here, because the call to ownAssertFailureHandler (defined above) in the code below will never return, the compiler does not need to add code below that call:

std::vector<int> createSequence(int end) {
    if (end > 0) {
        std::vector<int> sequence;
        for (int i = 0; i <= end; ++i)
        return sequence;
    ownAssertFailureHandler("Negative number passed to createSequence()"s);
    // return std::vector<int>{}; //< Not needed because of [[noreturn]]

It is undefined behavior if the function will actually return, so the following is not allowed:

[[noreturn]] void assertPositive(int number) {
    if (number >= 0)
        ownAssertFailureHandler("Positive number expected"s); //< [[noreturn]]

Note that the [[noreturn]] is mostly used in void functions. However, this is not a requirement, allowing the functions to be used in generic programming:

template<class InconsistencyHandler>
double fortyTwoDivideBy(int i) {
    if (i == 0)
         i = InconsistencyHandler::correct(i);
    return 42. / i;

struct InconsistencyThrower {
    static [[noreturn]] int correct(int i) { ownAssertFailureHandler("Unknown inconsistency"s); }

struct InconsistencyChangeToOne {
    static int correct(int i) { return 1; }

double fortyTwo = fortyTwoDivideBy<InconsistencyChangeToOne>(0);
double unreachable = fortyTwoDivideBy<InconsistencyThrower>(0);

The following standard library functions have this attribute:

  • std::abort
  • std::exit
  • std::quick_exit
  • std::unexpected
  • std::terminate
  • std::rethrow_exception
  • std::throw_with_nested
  • std::nested_exception::rethrow_nested