A compiler is a computer program (or set of programs) that transforms source code written in a programming language (the source language) into another computer language (the target language, often having a binary form known as object code).[1] The most common reason for wanting to transform source code is to create an executable program. The name "compiler" is primarily used for programs that translate source code from a high-level programming language to a lower level language (e.g., assembly language or machine code). If the compiled program can run on a computer whose CPU or operating system is different from the one on which the compiler runs, the compiler is known as a cross-compiler. A program that translates from a low level language to a higher level one is a decompiler. A program that translates between high-level languages is usually called a language translator, source to source translator, or language converter. A language rewriter is usually a program that translates the form of expressions without a change of language.

A compiler is likely to perform many or all of the following operations: lexical analysis, preprocessing, parsing, semantic analysis (Syntax-directed translation), code generation, and code optimization. Program faults caused by incorrect compiler behavior can be very difficult to track down and work around; therefore, compiler implementors invest significant effort to ensure compiler correctness. The term compiler-compiler is sometimes used to refer to a parser generator, a tool often used to help create the lexer and parser.


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