Prolog LanguageHigher-Order Programming

call/N predicates

The call/N family of predicates can call arbitrary Prolog goals at run time:

?- G=true, call(G).

?- G=(true,false), call(G).


maplist/2 and maplist/3 are higher-order predicates, which allow the definition of a predicate to be lifted about a single element to lists of such elements. These predicates can be defined using call/2 and call/3 as building blocks and ship with many Prolog systems.

For example:

?- maplist(dif(a), [X,Y,Z]).
dif(X, a),
dif(Y, a),
dif(Z, a).


In Prolog, the so-called meta-call is a built-in language feature. All Prolog code is represented by Prolog terms, allowing goals to be constructed dynamically and be used like other goals without additional predicates:

?- Goal = dif(X, Y), Goal.
dif(X, Y).

Using this mechanism, other higher-order predicates can be defined in Prolog itself.


A fold (from the left) is a higher-order relation between:

  • a predicate with 3 arguments
  • a list of elements
  • an initial state
  • a final state, which is the result of applying the predicate to successive elements while carrying through intermediate states.

For example: Use foldl/4 to express the sum of all elements in a list, using a predicate as a building block to define the sum of two elements:

?- foldl(plus, [2,3,4], 0, S).
S = 9.

Call a list of goals

To call a list of goals as if it were a conjunction of goals, combine the higher-order predicates call/1 and maplist/2:

?- Gs = [X = a, Y = b], maplist(call, Gs).
Gs = [a=a, b=b],
X = a,
Y = b.