WAIT(2) Linux Programmer's Manual WAIT(2)
wait, waitpid - wait for process termination
pid_t wait(int *status);
pid_t waitpid(pid_t pid, int *status, int options);
The wait function suspends execution of the current process until a child has exited, or
until a signal is delivered whose action is to terminate the current process or to call a
signal handling function. If a child has already exited by the time of the call (a
so-called "zombie" process), the function returns immediately. Any system resources used
by the child are freed.
The waitpid function suspends execution of the current process until a child as specified
by the pid argument has exited, or until a signal is delivered whose action is to termi-
nate the current process or to call a signal handling function. If a child as requested
by pid has already exited by the time of the call (a so-called "zombie" process), the
function returns immediately. Any system resources used by the child are freed.
The value of pid can be one of:
< -1 which means to wait for any child process whose process group ID is equal to the
absolute value of pid.
-1 which means to wait for any child process; this is the same behaviour which wait
0 which means to wait for any child process whose process group ID is equal to that
of the calling process.
> 0 which means to wait for the child whose process ID is equal to the value of pid.
The value of options is an OR of zero or more of the following constants:
which means to return immediately if no child has exited.
which means to also return for children which are stopped, and whose status has not
(For Linux-only options, see below.)
If status is not NULL, wait or waitpid store status information in the location pointed to
This status can be evaluated with the following macros (these macros take the stat buffer
(an int) as an argument -- not a pointer to the buffer!):
is non-zero if the child exited normally.
evaluates to the least significant eight bits of the return code of the child which
terminated, which may have been set as the argument to a call to exit() or as the
argument for a return statement in the main program. This macro can only be evalu-
ated if WIFEXITED returned non-zero.
returns true if the child process exited because of a signal which was not caught.
returns the number of the signal that caused the child process to terminate. This
macro can only be evaluated if WIFSIGNALED returned non-zero.
returns true if the child process which caused the return is currently stopped;
this is only possible if the call was done using WUNTRACED.
returns the number of the signal which caused the child to stop. This macro can
only be evaluated if WIFSTOPPED returned non-zero.
Some versions of Unix (e.g. Linux, Solaris, but not AIX, SunOS) also define a macro WCORE-
DUMP(status) to test whether the child process dumped core. Only use this enclosed in
#ifdef WCOREDUMP ... #endif.
The process ID of the child which exited, or zero if WNOHANG was used and no child was
available, or -1 on error (in which case errno is set to an appropriate value).
ECHILD if the process specified in pid does not exist or is not a child of the calling
process. (This can happen for one's own child if the action for SIGCHLD is set to
SIG_IGN. See also the LINUX NOTES section about threads.)
EINVAL if the options argument was invalid.
EINTR if WNOHANG was not set and an unblocked signal or a SIGCHLD was caught.
The Single Unix Specification describes a flag SA_NOCLDWAIT (not supported under Linux)
such that if either this flag is set, or the action for SIGCHLD is set to SIG_IGN then
children that exit do not become zombies and a call to wait() or waitpid() will block
until all children have exited, and then fail with errno set to ECHILD.
The original POSIX standard left the behaviour of setting SIGCHLD to SIG_IGN unspecified.
Later standards, including SUSv2 and POSIX 1003.1-2001 specify the behaviour just
described as an XSI-compliance option. Linux does not conform to the second of the two
points just described: if a wait() or waitpid() call is made while SIGCHLD is being
ignored, the call behaves just as though SIGCHLD were not being igored, that is, the call
blocks until the next child terminates and then returns the PID and status of that child.
In the Linux kernel, a kernel-scheduled thread is not a distinct construct from a process.
Instead, a thread is simply a process that is created using the Linux-unique clone(2) sys-
tem call; other routines such as the portable pthread_create(3) call are implemented using
clone(2). Before Linux 2.4, a thread was just a special case of a process, and as a con-
sequence one thread could not wait on the children of another thread, even when the latter
belongs to the same thread group. However, POSIX prescribes such functionality, and since
Linux 2.4 a thread can, and by default will, wait on children of other threads in the same
The following Linux-specific options are for use with children created using clone(2).
Wait for "clone" children only. If omitted then wait for "non-clone" children
only. (A "clone" child is one which delivers no signal, or a signal other than
SIGCHLD to its parent upon termination.) This option is ignored if __WALL is also
__WALL (Since Linux 2.4) Wait for all children, regardless of type ("clone" or "non-
(Since Linux 2.4) Do not wait for children of other threads in the same thread
group. This was the default before Linux 2.4.
clone(2), signal(2), wait4(2), pthread_create(3), signal(7)
Linux 2000-07-24 WAIT(2)