Build options

Most non-trivial builds require user-settable options. As an example a program may have two different data backends that are selectable at build time. Meson provides for this by having a option definition file. Its name is meson_options.txt and it is placed at the root of your source tree.

Here is a simple option file.

option('someoption', type : 'string', value : 'optval', description : 'An option')
option('other_one', type : 'boolean', value : false)
option('combo_opt', type : 'combo', choices : ['one', 'two', 'three'], value : 'three')
option('integer_opt', type : 'integer', min : 0, max : 5, value : 3) # Since 0.45.0
option('free_array_opt', type : 'array', value : ['one', 'two'])
option('array_opt', type : 'array', choices : ['one', 'two', 'three'], value : ['one', 'two'])

All types allow a description value to be set describing the option, if no option is set then the name of the option will be used instead.


The string type is a free form string. If the default value is not set then an empty string will be used as the default.


Booleans may have values of either true or false. If no default value is supplied then true will be used as the default.


A combo allows any one of the values in the choices parameter to be selected. If no default value is set then the first value will be the default.


An integer option contains a single integer with optional upper and lower values that are specified with the min and max keyword arguments.

This type is available since Meson version 0.45.0.


Arrays represent an array of strings. By default the array can contain arbitrary strings. To limit the possible values that can used set the choices parameter. Meson will then only allow the value array to contain strings that are in the given list. The array may be empty. The value parameter specifies the default value of the option and if it is unset then the values of choices will be used as the default.

This type is available since version 0.44.0

Using build options

optval = get_option('opt_name')

This function also allows you to query the value of Meson's built-in project options. For example, to get the installation prefix you would issue the following command:

prefix = get_option('prefix')

It should be noted that you can not set option values in your Meson scripts. They have to be set externally with the meson configure command line tool. Running meson configure without arguments in a build dir shows you all options you can set.

To change their values use the -D option:

$ meson configure -Doption=newvalue

Setting the value of arrays is a bit special. If you only pass a single string, then it is considered to have all values separated by commas. Thus invoking the following command:

$ meson configure -Darray_opt=foo,bar

would set the value to an array of two elements, foo and bar.

If you need to have commas in your string values, then you need to pass the value with proper shell quoting like this:

$ meson configure "-Doption=['a,b', 'c,d']"

The inner values must always be single quotes and the outer ones double quotes.

To change values in subprojects prepend the name of the subproject and a colon:

$ meson configure -Dsubproject:option=newvalue

NOTE: If you cannot call meson configure you likely have a old version of Meson. In that case you can call mesonconf instead, but that is deprecated in newer versions

Yielding to superproject option

Suppose you have a master project and a subproject. In some cases it might be useful to have an option that has the same value in both of them. This can be achieved with the yield keyword. Suppose you have an option definition like this:

option('some_option', type : 'string', value : 'value', yield : true)

If you build this project on its own, this option behaves like usual. However if you build this project as a subproject of another project which also has an option called some_option, then calling get_option returns the value of the superproject. If the value of yield is false, get_option returns the value of the subproject's option.

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