quine: /kwi:n/, n.

[from the name of the logician Willard van Orman Quine, via Douglas Hofstadter] A program that generates a copy of its own source text as its complete output. Devising the shortest possible quine in some given programming language is a common hackish amusement. (We ignore some variants of BASIC in which a program consisting of a single empty string literal reproduces itself trivially.) Here is one classic quine:

((lambda (x)
  (list x (list (quote quote) x)))
    (lambda (x)
      (list x (list (quote quote) x)))))

This one works in LISP or Scheme. It's relatively easy to write quines in other languages such as Postscript which readily handle programs as data; much harder (and thus more challenging!) in languages like C which do not. Here is a classic C quine for ASCII machines:


For excruciatingly exact quinishness, remove the interior line breaks. Here is another elegant quine in ANSI C:

#define q(k)main(){return!puts(#k"\nq("#k")");}
q(#define q(k)main(){return!puts(#k"\nq("#k")");})

Some infamous Obfuscated C Contest entries have been quines that reproduced in exotic ways. There is an amusing Quine Home Page.