FAQ 6.10 What is "/o" really for?

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6.10: What is "/o" really for?

    (contributed by brian d foy)

    The "/o" option for regular expressions (documented in perlop and
    perlreref) tells Perl to compile the regular expression only once. This
    is only useful when the pattern contains a variable. Perls 5.6 and later
    handle this automatically if the pattern does not change.

    Since the match operator "m//", the substitution operator "s///", and
    the regular expression quoting operator "qr//" are double-quotish
    constructs, you can interpolate variables into the pattern. See the
    answer to "How can I quote a variable to use in a regex?" for more

    This example takes a regular expression from the argument list and
    prints the lines of input that match it:

            my $pattern = shift @ARGV;

            while( <> ) {
                    print if m/$pattern/;

    Versions of Perl prior to 5.6 would recompile the regular expression for
    each iteration, even if $pattern had not changed. The "/o" would prevent
    this by telling Perl to compile the pattern the first time, then reuse
    that for subsequent iterations:

            my $pattern = shift @ARGV;

            while( <> ) {
                    print if m/$pattern/o; # useful for Perl < 5.6

    In versions 5.6 and later, Perl won't recompile the regular expression
    if the variable hasn't changed, so you probably don't need the "/o"
    option. It doesn't hurt, but it doesn't help either. If you want any
    version of Perl to compile the regular expression only once even if the
    variable changes (thus, only using its initial value), you still need
    the "/o".

    You can watch Perl's regular expression engine at work to verify for
    yourself if Perl is recompiling a regular expression. The "use re
    'debug'" pragma (comes with Perl 5.005 and later) shows the details.
    With Perls before 5.6, you should see "re" reporting that its compiling
    the regular expression on each iteration. With Perl 5.6 or later, you
    should only see "re" report that for the first iteration.

            use re 'debug';

            $regex = 'Perl';
            foreach ( qw(Perl Java Ruby Python) ) {
                    print STDERR "-" x 73, "\n";
                    print STDERR "Trying $_...\n";
                    print STDERR "\t$_ is good!\n" if m/$regex/;


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