Defined in header <csignal>
/* signal-handler */* signal( int sig, /* signal-handler */* handler );
extern "C" using /* signal-handler */ = void(int); // exposition-only

Sets the handler for signal sig to the handler handler points to. The signal handler can be set so that default handling will occur, signal is ignored, or a user-defined function is called.

When signal handler is set to a function and a signal occurs, it is implementation defined whether std::signal(sig, SIG_DFL) will be executed immediately before the start of signal handler. Also, the implementation can prevent some implementation-defined set of signals from occurring while the signal handler runs.

For some of the signals, the implementation may call std::signal(sig, SIG_IGN) at the startup of the program. For the rest, the implementation must call std::signal(sig, SIG_DFL).

(Note: POSIX introduced sigaction to standardize these implementation-defined behaviors).


sig - the signal to set the signal handler to. It can be an implementation-defined value or one of the following values:
defines signal types
(macro constant)
handler - the signal handler. This must be one of the following:
  • SIG_DFL macro. The signal handler is set to default signal handler.
  • SIG_IGN macro. The signal is ignored.
  • pointer to a function. The signature of the function must be equivalent to the following:
extern "C" void fun(int sig);
void fun(int sig);
(since C++17)

Return value

Previous signal handler on success or SIG_ERR on failure (setting a signal handler can be disabled on some implementations).

Signal handler

The following limitations are imposed on the user-defined function that is installed as a signal handler.

If the signal handler is called NOT as a result of std::abort or std::raise (asynchronous signal), the behavior is undefined if.

  • the signal handler calls any function within the standard library, except
    • std::abort
    • std::_Exit
    • std::quick_exit
    • std::signal with the first argument being the number of the signal currently handled (async handler can re-register itself, but not other signals).
  • the signal handler refers to any object with static storage duration that is not std::atomic or (since C++11)volatile std::sig_atomic_t.
(until C++17)

A plain lock-free atomic operation is an invocation of a function f from <atomic> or <stdatomic.h> (since C++23), such that:

The behavior is undefined if any signal handler performs any of the following:

(since C++17)

If the user defined function returns when handling SIGFPE, SIGILL, SIGSEGV or any other implementation-defined signal specifying a computational exception, the behavior is undefined.

If the signal handler is called as a result of std::abort or std::raise (synchronous signal), the behavior is undefined if the signal handler calls std::raise.

On entry to the signal handler, the state of the floating-point environment and the values of all objects is unspecified, except for.

(since C++11)

On return from a signal handler, the value of any object modified by the signal handler that is not volatile std::sig_atomic_t or lock-free std::atomic is indeterminate.

(until C++14)

A call to the function signal() synchronizes-with any resulting invocation of the signal handler.

If a signal handler is executed as a result of a call to std::raise (synchronously), then the execution of the handler is sequenced-after the invocation of std::raise and sequenced-before the return from it and runs on the same thread as std::raise. Execution of the handlers for other signals is unsequenced with respect to the rest of the program and runs on an unspecified thread.

Two accesses to the same object of type volatile std::sig_atomic_t do not result in a data race if both occur in the same thread, even if one or more occurs in a signal handler. For each signal handler invocation, evaluations performed by the thread invoking a signal handler can be divided into two groups A and B, such that no evaluations in B happen-before evaluations in A, and the evaluations of such volatile std::sig_atomic_t objects take values as though all evaluations in A happened-before the execution of the signal handler and the execution of the signal handler happened-before all evaluations in B.

(since C++14)


POSIX requires that signal is thread-safe, and specifies a list of async-signal-safe library functions that may be called from any signal handler.

Signal handlers are expected to have C linkage and, in general, only use the features from the common subset of C and C++. It is implementation-defined if a function with C++ linkage can be used as a signal handler.

(until C++17)

There is no restriction on the linkage of signal handlers.

(since C++17)


#include <csignal>
#include <iostream>
    volatile std::sig_atomic_t gSignalStatus;
void signal_handler(int signal)
    gSignalStatus = signal;
int main()
    // Install a signal handler
    std::signal(SIGINT, signal_handler);
    std::cout << "SignalValue: " << gSignalStatus << '\n';
    std::cout << "Sending signal: " << SIGINT << '\n';
    std::cout << "SignalValue: " << gSignalStatus << '\n';

Possible output:

SignalValue: 0
Sending signal: 2
SignalValue: 2


  • C++23 standard (ISO/IEC 14882:2023):
    • 17.13.5 Signal handlers [support.signal]
  • C++20 standard (ISO/IEC 14882:2020):
    • 17.13.5 Signal handlers [support.signal]
  • C++17 standard (ISO/IEC 14882:2017):
    • 21.10.4 Signal handlers [support.signal]

Defect reports

The following behavior-changing defect reports were applied retroactively to previously published C++ standards.

DR Applied to Behavior as published Correct behavior
LWG 3756 C++17 it was unclear whether std::atomic_flag is signal-safe it is

See also

runs the signal handler for particular signal
fence between a thread and a signal handler executed in the same thread
C documentation for signal

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