Symbol Table

An object file's symbol table holds information needed to locate and relocate a program's symbolic definitions and references. A symbol table index is a subscript into this array. Index 0 both designates the first entry in the table and serves as the undefined symbol index. The contents of the initial entry are specified later in this section.

Name Value

A symbol table entry has the following format.

Figure 4-16: Symbol Table Entry

typedef struct {
	Elf32_Word	st_name;
	Elf32_Addr	st_value;
	Elf32_Word	st_size;
	unsigned char	st_info;
	unsigned char	st_other;
	Elf32_Half	st_shndx;
} Elf32_Sym;

typedef struct {
	Elf64_Word	st_name;
	unsigned char	st_info;
	unsigned char	st_other;
	Elf64_Half	st_shndx;
	Elf64_Addr	st_value;
	Elf64_Xword	st_size;
} Elf64_Sym;

This member holds an index into the object file's symbol string table, which holds the character representations of the symbol names. If the value is non-zero, it represents a string table index that gives the symbol name. Otherwise, the symbol table entry has no name.

NOTE: External C symbols have the same names in C and object files' symbol tables.

This member gives the value of the associated symbol. Depending on the context, this may be an absolute value, an address, and so on; details appear below.

Many symbols have associated sizes. For example, a data object's size is the number of bytes contained in the object. This member holds 0 if the symbol has no size or an unknown size.

This member specifies the symbol's type and binding attributes. A list of the values and meanings appears below. The following code shows how to manipulate the values for both 32 and 64-bit objects.
   #define ELF32_ST_BIND(i)   ((i)>>4)
   #define ELF32_ST_TYPE(i)   ((i)&0xf)
   #define ELF32_ST_INFO(b,t) (((b)<<4)+((t)&0xf))

   #define ELF64_ST_BIND(i)   ((i)>>4)
   #define ELF64_ST_TYPE(i)   ((i)&0xf)
   #define ELF64_ST_INFO(b,t) (((b)<<4)+((t)&0xf))

This member currently specifies a symbol's visibility. A list of the values and meanings appears below. The following code shows how to manipulate the values for both 32 and 64-bit objects. Other bits contain 0 and have no defined meaning.
   #define ELF32_ST_VISIBILITY(o) ((o)&0x3)
   #define ELF64_ST_VISIBILITY(o) ((o)&0x3)

Every symbol table entry is defined in relation to some section. This member holds the relevant section header table index. As the sh_link and sh_info interpretation table and the related text describe, some section indexes indicate special meanings.

If this member contains SHN_XINDEX, then the actual section header index is too large to fit in this field. The actual value is contained in the associated section of type SHT_SYMTAB_SHNDX.

A symbol's binding determines the linkage visibility and behavior.

Figure 4-17: Symbol Binding

Name Value

Local symbols are not visible outside the object file containing their definition. Local symbols of the same name may exist in multiple files without interfering with each other.

Global symbols are visible to all object files being combined. One file's definition of a global symbol will satisfy another file's undefined reference to the same global symbol.

Weak symbols resemble global symbols, but their definitions have lower precedence.

Values in this inclusive range are reserved for operating system-specific semantics.

Values in this inclusive range are reserved for processor-specific semantics. If meanings are specified, the processor supplement explains them.

Global and weak symbols differ in two major ways.

NOTE: The behavior of weak symbols in areas not specified by this document is implementation defined. Weak symbols are intended primarily for use in system software. Their use in application programs is discouraged.

In each symbol table, all symbols with STB_LOCAL binding precede the weak and global symbols. As ``Sections'', above describes, a symbol table section's sh_info section header member holds the symbol table index for the first non-local symbol.

A symbol's type provides a general classification for the associated entity.

Figure 4-18: Symbol Types

Name Value

The symbol's type is not specified.

The symbol is associated with a data object, such as a variable, an array, and so on.

The symbol is associated with a function or other executable code.

The symbol is associated with a section. Symbol table entries of this type exist primarily for relocation and normally have STB_LOCAL binding.

Conventionally, the symbol's name gives the name of the source file associated with the object file. A file symbol has STB_LOCAL binding, its section index is SHN_ABS, and it precedes the other STB_LOCAL symbols for the file, if it is present.

The symbol labels an uninitialized common block. See below for details.

Values in this inclusive range are reserved for operating system-specific semantics.

Values in this inclusive range are reserved for processor-specific semantics. If meanings are specified, the processor supplement explains them.

Function symbols (those with type STT_FUNC) in shared object files have special significance. When another object file references a function from a shared object, the link editor automatically creates a procedure linkage table entry for the referenced symbol. Shared object symbols with types other than STT_FUNC will not be referenced automatically through the procedure linkage table.

Symbols with type STT_COMMON label uninitialized common blocks. In relocatable objects, these symbols are not allocated and must have the special section index SHN_COMMON (see below). In shared objects and executables these symbols must be allocated to some section in the defining object.

In relocatable objects, symbols with type STT_COMMON are treated just as other symbols with index SHN_COMMON. If the link-editor allocates space for the SHN_COMMON symbol in an output section of the object it is producing, it must preserve the type of the output symbol as STT_COMMON.

When the dynamic linker encounters a reference to a symbol that resolves to a definition of type STT_COMMON, it may (but is not required to) change its symbol resolution rules as follows: instead of binding the reference to the first symbol found with the given name, the dynamic linker searches for the first symbol with that name with type other than STT_COMMON. If no such symbol is found, it looks for the STT_COMMON definition of that name that has the largest size.

A symbol's visibility, although it may be specified in a relocatable object, defines how that symbol may be accessed once it has become part of an executable or shared object.

Figure 4-19: Symbol Visibility

Name Value

The visibility of symbols with the STV_DEFAULT attribute is as specified by the symbol's binding type. That is, global and weak symbols are visible outside of their defining component (executable file or shared object). Local symbols are hidden, as described below. Global and weak symbols are also preemptable, that is, they may by preempted by definitions of the same name in another component.
NOTE: An implementation may restrict the set of global and weak symbols that are externally visible.

A symbol defined in the current component is protected if it is visible in other components but not preemptable, meaning that any reference to such a symbol from within the defining component must be resolved to the definition in that component, even if there is a definition in another component that would preempt by the default rules. A symbol with STB_LOCAL binding may not have STV_PROTECTED visibility. If a symbol definition with STV_PROTECTED visibility from a shared object is taken as resolving a reference from an executable or another shared object, the SHN_UNDEF symbol table entry created has STV_DEFAULT visibility.
NOTE: The presence of the STV_PROTECTED flag on a symbol in a given load module does not affect the symbol resolution rules for references to that symbol from outside the containing load module.

A symbol defined in the current component is hidden if its name is not visible to other components. Such a symbol is necessarily protected. This attribute may be used to control the external interface of a component. Note that an object named by such a symbol may still be referenced from another component if its address is passed outside.

A hidden symbol contained in a relocatable object must be either removed or converted to STB_LOCAL binding by the link-editor when the relocatable object is included in an executable file or shared object.

The meaning of this visibility attribute may be defined by processor supplements to further constrain hidden symbols. A processor supplement's definition should be such that generic tools can safely treat internal symbols as hidden.

An internal symbol contained in a relocatable object must be either removed or converted to STB_LOCAL binding by the link-editor when the relocatable object is included in an executable file or shared object.

None of the visibility attributes affects resolution of symbols within an executable or shared object during link-editing -- such resolution is controlled by the binding type. Once the link-editor has chosen its resolution, these attributes impose two requirements, both based on the fact that references in the code being linked may have been optimized to take advantage of the attributes.

If a symbol's value refers to a specific location within a section, its section index member, st_shndx, holds an index into the section header table. As the section moves during relocation, the symbol's value changes as well, and references to the symbol continue to ``point'' to the same location in the program. Some special section index values give other semantics.

The symbol has an absolute value that will not change because of relocation.

The symbol labels a common block that has not yet been allocated. The symbol's value gives alignment constraints, similar to a section's sh_addralign member. The link editor will allocate the storage for the symbol at an address that is a multiple of st_value. The symbol's size tells how many bytes are required. Symbols with section index SHN_COMMON may appear only in relocatable objects.

This section table index means the symbol is undefined. When the link editor combines this object file with another that defines the indicated symbol, this file's references to the symbol will be linked to the actual definition.

This value is an escape value. It indicates that the symbol refers to a specific location within a section, but that the section header index for that section is too large to be represented directly in the symbol table entry. The actual section header index is found in the associated SHT_SYMTAB_SHNDX. The entries in that section correspond one to one with the entries in the symbol table. All entries in the SHT_SYMTAB_SHNDX will represent valid section header indexes, even if their corresponding symbol table entries do not contain SHN_XINDEX.

The symbol table entry for index 0 (STN_UNDEF) is reserved; it holds the following.

Figure 4-20: Symbol Table Entry:Index 0

Name Value Note
st_name 0 No name
st_value 0 Zero value
st_size 0 No size
st_info 0 No type, local binding
st_other 0 Default visibility
st_shndx SHN_UNDEF No section

Symbol Values

Symbol table entries for different object file types have slightly different interpretations for the st_value member. Although the symbol table values have similar meanings for different object files, the data allows efficient access by the appropriate programs.
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