caller - macOS


The caller command in macOS is utilized predominantly in scripting and programming contexts to return the context of any active subroutine call (a frame). It provides essential details such as the line number and subroutine name where it has been invoked. This command is valuable in debugging shell scripts, allowing developers to trace the call stack and understand script execution flow more clearly.


The basic syntax of the caller command is as follows:

caller [EXPR]
  • EXPR: An optional expression that specifies how many frames up the stack to go. If not provided, caller outputs the information about the current subroutine call.


The caller command does not have any specific options or flags. Its functionality is primarily determined by the presence or absence of the EXPR argument.


  1. Basic Usage:
    Retrieve the context of the current script call.


    This will output the line number and the name of the script or function if it is called within a function.

  2. With EXPR:
    Getting information about a parent call in a function stack.

    function myfunc() {
    function secondfunc() {
        caller 1

    This example will show details about the myfunc call when secondfunc is executed.

Common Issues

  • No Output: If caller is used outside of any function, it might not return any output because there is no active subroutine context.
  • Invalid EXPR: Providing a non-numeric or out-of-bound EXPR value can lead to unexpected results. Always ensure that EXPR is within valid frame boundaries.


caller can be integrated with other shell commands or scripts to provide detailed debugging information. For example:

function debug_call_stack() {
   local i=0
   while caller $i; do


This script uses a loop to traverse and print the call stack of the functions leading to where debug_call_stack was invoked.

  • debug: Typically used in programming languages to step through code.
  • trace: Another utility that might be used to follow the flow of execution in scripts.

For further reading and more detailed information about shell scripting and debugging in macOS, refer to the official Apple Developer Documentation.