Very few applications are fully self-contained, but rather they use external libraries and frameworks to do their work. Meson makes it very easy to find and use external dependencies. Here is how one would use the zlib compression library.

zdep = dependency('zlib', version : '>=1.2.8')
exe = executable('zlibprog', 'prog.c', dependencies : zdep)

First Meson is told to find the external library zlib and error out if it is not found. The version keyword is optional and specifies a version requirement for the dependency. Then an executable is built using the specified dependency. Note how the user does not need to manually handle compiler or linker flags or deal with any other minutiae.

If you have multiple dependencies, pass them as an array:

executable('manydeps', 'file.c', dependencies : [dep1, dep2, dep3, dep4])

If the dependency is optional, you can tell Meson not to error out if the dependency is not found and then do further configuration.

opt_dep = dependency('somedep', required : false)
if opt_dep.found()
  # Do something.
  # Do something else.

You can pass the opt_dep variable to target construction functions whether the actual dependency was found or not. Meson will ignore non-found dependencies.

Meson also allows one to get variables that are defined in a pkg-config file. This can be done by using the dep.get_pkgconfig_variable() function.

zdep_prefix = zdep.get_pkgconfig_variable('prefix')

These variables can also be redefined by passing the define_variable parameter, which might be useful in certain situations:

zdep_prefix = zdep.get_pkgconfig_variable('libdir', define_variable: ['prefix', '/tmp'])

The dependency detector works with all libraries that provide a pkg-config file. Unfortunately several packages don't provide pkg-config files. Meson has autodetection support for some of these, and they are described later in this page.

Arbitrary variables from dependencies that can be found multiple ways

Note new in 0.51.0 new in 0.54.0, the internal keyword

When you need to get an arbitrary variable from a dependency that can be found multiple ways and you don't want to constrain the type, you can use the generic get_variable method. This currently supports cmake, pkg-config, and config-tool based variables.

foo_dep = dependency('foo')
var = foo_dep.get_variable(cmake : 'CMAKE_VAR', pkgconfig : 'pkg-config-var', configtool : 'get-var', default_value : 'default')

It accepts the keywords 'cmake', 'pkgconfig', 'pkgconfig_define', 'configtool', 'internal', and 'default_value'. 'pkgconfig_define' works just like the 'define_variable' argument to get_pkgconfig_variable. When this method is invoked the keyword corresponding to the underlying type of the dependency will be used to look for a variable. If that variable cannot be found or if the caller does not provide an argument for the type of dependency, one of the following will happen: If 'default_value' was provided that value will be returned, if 'default_value' was not provided then an error will be raised.

Dependencies that provide resource files

Sometimes a dependency provides installable files which other projects then need to use. For example, wayland-protocols XML files.

foo_dep = dependency('foo')
foo_datadir = foo_dep.get_variable('pkgdatadir')
    input: foo_datadir / 'prototype.xml',
    output: 'foo-generated.c',
    command: [generator, '@INPUT@', '@OUTPUT@']

Since 0.63.0 these actually work as expected, even when they come from a (well-formed) internal dependency. This only works when treating the files to be obtained as interchangeable with a system dependency -- e.g. only public files may be used, and leaving the directory pointed to by the dependency is not allowed.

Declaring your own

You can declare your own dependency objects that can be used interchangeably with dependency objects obtained from the system. The syntax is straightforward:

my_inc = include_directories(...)
my_lib = static_library(...)
my_dep = declare_dependency(link_with : my_lib,
  include_directories : my_inc)

This declares a dependency that adds the given include directories and static library to any target you use it in.

Building dependencies as subprojects

Many platforms do not provide a system package manager. On these systems dependencies must be compiled from source. Meson's subprojects make it simple to use system dependencies when they are available and to build dependencies manually when they are not.

To make this work, the dependency must have Meson build definitions and it must declare its own dependency like this:

    foo_dep = declare_dependency(...)

Then any project that wants to use it can write out the following declaration in their main file.

    foo_dep = dependency('foo', fallback : ['foo', 'foo_dep'])

What this declaration means is that first Meson tries to look up the dependency from the system (such as by using pkg-config). If it is not available, then it builds subproject named foo and from that extracts a variable foo_dep. That means that the return value of this function is either an external or an internal dependency object. Since they can be used interchangeably, the rest of the build definitions do not need to care which one it is. Meson will take care of all the work behind the scenes to make this work.

Dependency detection method

You can use the keyword method to let Meson know what method to use when searching for the dependency. The default value is auto. Additional methods are pkg-config, config-tool, cmake, builtin, system, sysconfig, qmake, extraframework and dub.

cups_dep = dependency('cups', method : 'pkg-config')

For dependencies without specific detection logic, the dependency method order for auto is:

  1. pkg-config
  2. cmake
  3. extraframework (OSX only)


Some dependencies provide no valid methods for discovery, or do so only in some cases. Some examples of this are Zlib, which provides both pkg-config and cmake, except when it is part of the base OS image (such as in FreeBSD and macOS); OpenGL which has pkg-config on Unices from glvnd or mesa, but has no pkg-config on macOS and Windows.

In these cases Meson provides convenience wrappers in the form of system dependencies. Internally these dependencies do exactly what a user would do in the build system DSL or with a script, likely calling compiler.find_library(), setting link_with and include_directories. By putting these in Meson upstream the barrier of using them is lowered, as projects using Meson don't have to re-implement the logic.


Some dependencies provide no valid methods for discovery on some systems, because they are provided internally by the language. One example of this is intl, which is built into GNU or musl libc but otherwise comes as a system dependency.

In these cases Meson provides convenience wrappers for the system dependency, but first checks if the functionality is usable by default.


Meson can use the CMake find_package() function to detect dependencies with the builtin Find<NAME>.cmake modules and exported project configurations (usually in /usr/lib/cmake). Meson is able to use both the old-style <NAME>_LIBRARIES variables as well as imported targets.

It is possible to manually specify a list of CMake targets that should be used with the modules property. However, this step is optional since Meson tries to automatically guess the correct target based on the name of the dependency.

Depending on the dependency it may be necessary to explicitly specify a CMake target with the modules property if Meson is unable to guess it automatically.

    cmake_dep = dependency('ZLIB', method : 'cmake', modules : ['ZLIB::ZLIB'])

Support for adding additional COMPONENTS for the CMake find_package lookup is provided with the components kwarg (introduced in 0.54.0). All specified components will be passed directly to find_package(COMPONENTS).

Support for packages which require a specified version for CMake find_package to succeed is provided with the cmake_package_version kwarg (introduced in 0.57.0). The specified cmake_package_version will be passed directly as the second parameter to find_package.

It is also possible to reuse existing Find<name>.cmake files with the cmake_module_path property (since 0.50.0). Using this property is equivalent to setting the CMAKE_MODULE_PATH variable in CMake. The path(s) given to cmake_module_path should all be relative to the project source directory. Absolute paths should only be used if the CMake files are not stored in the project itself.

Additional CMake parameters can be specified with the cmake_args property (since 0.50.0).


Please understand that Meson is only able to find dependencies that exist in the local Dub repository. You need to manually fetch and build the target dependencies.

For urld.

dub fetch urld
dub build urld

Other thing you need to keep in mind is that both Meson and Dub need to be using the same compiler. This can be achieved using Dub's -compiler argument and/or manually setting the DC environment variable when running Meson.

dub build urld --compiler=dmd
DC="dmd" meson setup builddir

Config tool

CUPS, LLVM, pcap, WxWidgets, libwmf, GCrypt, GPGME, and GnuStep either do not provide pkg-config modules or additionally can be detected via a config tool (cups-config, llvm-config, libgcrypt-config, etc). Meson has native support for these tools, and they can be found like other dependencies:

pcap_dep = dependency('pcap', version : '>=1.0')
cups_dep = dependency('cups', version : '>=1.4')
llvm_dep = dependency('llvm', version : '>=4.0')
libgcrypt_dep = dependency('libgcrypt', version: '>= 1.8')
gpgme_dep = dependency('gpgme', version: '>= 1.0')

Since 0.55.0 Meson won't search $PATH any more for a config tool binary when cross compiling if the config tool did not have an entry in the cross file.

Dependencies with custom lookup functionality

Some dependencies have specific detection logic.

Generic dependency names are case-sensitive1, but these dependency names are matched case-insensitively. The recommended style is to write them in all lower-case.

In some cases, more than one detection method exists, and the method keyword may be used to select a detection method to use. The auto method uses any checking mechanisms in whatever order Meson thinks is best.

e.g. libwmf and CUPS provide both pkg-config and config-tool support. You can force one or another via the method keyword:

cups_dep = dependency('cups', method : 'pkg-config')
wmf_dep = dependency('libwmf', method : 'config-tool')


Use the modules keyword to list frameworks required, e.g.

dep = dependency('appleframeworks', modules : 'foundation')

These dependencies can never be found for non-OSX hosts.


Enable support for Clang's blocks extension.

dep = dependency('blocks')

(added 0.52.0)


Boost is not a single dependency but rather a group of different libraries. To use Boost headers-only libraries, simply add Boost as a dependency.

boost_dep = dependency('boost')
exe = executable('myprog', '', dependencies : boost_dep)

To link against boost with Meson, simply list which libraries you would like to use.

boost_dep = dependency('boost', modules : ['thread', 'utility'])
exe = executable('myprog', '', dependencies : boost_dep)

You can call dependency() multiple times with different modules and use those to link against your targets.

If your boost headers or libraries are in non-standard locations you can set the BOOST_ROOT, or the BOOST_INCLUDEDIR and BOOST_LIBRARYDIR environment variables. (added in 0.56.0) You can also set these parameters as boost_root, boost_includedir, and boost_librarydir in your native or cross machine file. Note that machine file variables are preferred to environment variables, and that specifying any of these disables system-wide search for boost.

You can set the argument threading to single to use boost libraries that have been compiled for single-threaded use instead.


(added 0.53.0)

Enables compiling and linking against the CUDA Toolkit. The version and modules keywords may be passed to request the use of a specific CUDA Toolkit version and/or additional CUDA libraries, correspondingly:

dep = dependency('cuda', version : '>=10', modules : ['cublas'])

Note that explicitly adding this dependency is only necessary if you are using CUDA Toolkit from a C/C++ file or project, or if you are utilizing additional toolkit libraries that need to be explicitly linked to. If the CUDA Toolkit cannot be found in the default paths on your system, you can set the path using CUDA_PATH explicitly.


method may be auto, config-tool, pkg-config, cmake or extraframework.


(Since 0.54.0)

Curses (and ncurses) are a cross platform pain in the butt. Meson wraps up these dependencies in the curses dependency. This covers both ncurses (preferred) and other curses implementations.

method may be auto, pkg-config, config-tool, or system.

New in 0.56.0 The config-tool and system methods.

To define some of the preprocessor symbols mentioned in the curses autoconf documentation:

conf = configuration_data()
check_headers = [
  ['ncursesw/menu.h', 'HAVE_NCURSESW_MENU_H'],
  ['ncurses/menu.h', 'HAVE_NCURSES_MENU_H'],
  ['menu.h', 'HAVE_MENU_H'],
  ['ncursesw/curses.h', 'HAVE_NCURSESW_CURSES_H'],
  ['ncursesw.h', 'HAVE_NCURSESW_H'],
  ['ncurses/curses.h', 'HAVE_NCURSES_CURSES_H'],
  ['ncurses.h', 'HAVE_NCURSES_H'],
  ['curses.h', 'HAVE_CURSES_H'],

foreach h : check_headers
  if compiler.has_header(h.get(0))
    conf.set(h.get(1), 1)

dl (libdl)

(added 0.62.0)

Provides access to the dynamic link interface (functions: dlopen, dlclose, dlsym and others). On systems where this is not built into libc (mostly glibc < 2.34), tries to find an external library providing them instead.

method may be auto, builtin or system.

Fortran Coarrays

(added 0.50.0)

Coarrays are a Fortran language intrinsic feature, enabled by dependency('coarray').

GCC will use OpenCoarrays if present to implement coarrays, while Intel and NAG use internal coarray support.


(added 0.51.0)

method may be auto, config-tool or pkg-config.


This finds the OpenGL library in a way appropriate to the platform.

method may be auto, pkg-config or system.

GTest and GMock

GTest and GMock come as sources that must be compiled as part of your project. With Meson you don't have to care about the details, just pass gtest or gmock to dependency and it will do everything for you. If you want to use GMock, it is recommended to use GTest as well, as getting it to work standalone is tricky.

You can set the main keyword argument to true to use the main() function provided by GTest:

gtest_dep = dependency('gtest', main : true, required : false)
e = executable('testprog', '', dependencies : gtest_dep)
test('gtest test', e)


(added 0.50.0)

HDF5 is supported for C, C++ and Fortran. Because dependencies are language-specific, you must specify the requested language using the language keyword argument, i.e.,

  • dependency('hdf5', language: 'c') for the C HDF5 headers and libraries
  • dependency('hdf5', language: 'cpp') for the C++ HDF5 headers and libraries
  • dependency('hdf5', language: 'fortran') for the Fortran HDF5 headers and libraries

Meson uses pkg-config to find HDF5. The standard low-level HDF5 function and the HL high-level HDF5 functions are linked for each language.

method may be auto, config-tool or pkg-config.

New in 0.56.0 the config-tool method. New in 0.56.0 the dependencies now return proper dependency types and get_variable and similar methods should work as expected.


(added 0.60.0)

Provides access to the iconv family of C functions. On systems where this is not built into libc, tries to find an external library providing them instead.

method may be auto, builtin or system.


(added 0.59.0)

Provides access to the *gettext family of C functions. On systems where this is not built into libc, tries to find an external library providing them instead.

method may be auto, builtin or system.


(added 0.58.0) (deprecated 0.62.0)

Deprecated name for JNI. dependency('jdk') instead of dependency('jni').


(added 0.62.0)

modules is an optional list of strings containing any of jvm and awt.

Provides access to compiling with the Java Native Interface (JNI). The lookup will first check if JAVA_HOME is set in the environment, and if not will use the resolved path of javac. Systems will usually link your preferred JDK to well known paths like /usr/bin/javac on Linux for instance. Using the path from JAVA_HOME or the resolved javac, this dependency will place the JDK installation's include directory and its platform-dependent subdirectory on the compiler's include path. If modules is non-empty, then the proper linker arguments will also be added.

dep = dependency('jni', version: '>= 1.8.0', modules: ['jvm'])

Note: Due to usage of a resolved path, upgrading the JDK may cause the various paths to not be found. In that case, please reconfigure the build directory. One workaround is to explicitly set JAVA_HOME instead of relying on the fallback javac resolved path behavior.

Note: Include paths might be broken on platforms other than linux, windows, darwin, and sunos. Please submit a PR or open an issue in this case.

Note: Use of the modules argument on a JDK <= 1.8 may be broken if your system is anything other than x86_64. Please submit a PR or open an issue in this case.


(added 0.49.0)

method may be auto, config-tool or pkg-config.


(added 0.44.0)

method may be auto, config-tool or pkg-config.


Meson has native support for LLVM going back to version LLVM version 3.5. It supports a few additional features compared to other config-tool based dependencies.

As of 0.44.0 Meson supports the static keyword argument for LLVM. Before this LLVM >= 3.9 would always dynamically link, while older versions would statically link, due to a quirk in llvm-config.

method may be auto, config-tool, or cmake.

Modules, a.k.a. Components

Meson wraps LLVM's concept of components in its own modules concept. When you need specific components you add them as modules as Meson will do the right thing:

llvm_dep = dependency('llvm', version : '>= 4.0', modules : ['amdgpu'])

As of 0.44.0 it can also take optional modules (these will affect the arguments generated for a static link):

llvm_dep = dependency(
  'llvm', version : '>= 4.0', modules : ['amdgpu'], optional_modules : ['inteljitevents'],

Using LLVM tools

When using LLVM as library but also needing its tools, it is often beneficial to use the same version. This can partially be achieved with the version argument of find_program(). However, distributions tend to package different LLVM versions in rather different ways. Therefore, it is often better to use the llvm dependency directly to retrieve the tools:

llvm_dep = dependency('llvm', version : ['>= 8', '< 9'])
llvm_link = find_program(llvm_dep.get_variable(configtool: 'bindir') / 'llvm-link')


(added 0.42.0)

MPI is supported for C, C++ and Fortran. Because dependencies are language-specific, you must specify the requested language using the language keyword argument, i.e.,

  • dependency('mpi', language: 'c') for the C MPI headers and libraries
  • dependency('mpi', language: 'cpp') for the C++ MPI headers and libraries
  • dependency('mpi', language: 'fortran') for the Fortran MPI headers and libraries

Meson prefers pkg-config for MPI, but if your MPI implementation does not provide them, it will search for the standard wrapper executables, mpic, mpicxx, mpic++, mpifort, mpif90, mpif77. If these are not in your path, they can be specified by setting the standard environment variables MPICC, MPICXX, MPIFC, MPIF90, or MPIF77, during configuration. It will also try to use the Microsoft implementation on windows via the system method.

method may be auto, config-tool, pkg-config or system.

New in 0.54.0 The config-tool and system method values. Previous versions would always try pkg-config, then config-tool, then system.


(added 0.50.0)

NetCDF is supported for C, C++ and Fortran. Because NetCDF dependencies are language-specific, you must specify the requested language using the language keyword argument, i.e.,

  • dependency('netcdf', language: 'c') for the C NetCDF headers and libraries
  • dependency('netcdf', language: 'cpp') for the C++ NetCDF headers and libraries
  • dependency('netcdf', language: 'fortran') for the Fortran NetCDF headers and libraries

Meson uses pkg-config to find NetCDF.


(added 0.46.0)

This dependency selects the appropriate compiler flags and/or libraries to use for OpenMP support.

The language keyword may used.


(added 0.62.0)

method may be auto, pkg-config, system or cmake.


(added 0.42.0)

method may be auto, config-tool or pkg-config.


(added 1.1.0)

method may be auto, pkg-config, config-tool, or cmake.


Python3 is handled specially by Meson:

  1. Meson tries to use pkg-config.
  2. If pkg-config fails Meson uses a fallback:
    • On Windows the fallback is the current python3 interpreter.
    • On OSX the fallback is a framework dependency from /Library/Frameworks.

Note that python3 found by this dependency might differ from the one used in python3 module because modules uses the current interpreter, but dependency tries pkg-config first.

method may be auto, extraframework, pkg-config or sysconfig

Qt4 & Qt5

Meson has native Qt support. Its usage is best demonstrated with an example.

qt5_mod = import('qt5')
qt5widgets = dependency('qt5', modules : 'Widgets')

processed = qt5_mod.preprocess(
  moc_headers : 'mainWindow.h',   # Only headers that need moc should be put here
  moc_sources : 'helperFile.cpp', # must have #include"moc_helperFile.cpp"
  ui_files    : 'mainWindow.ui',
  qresources  : 'resources.qrc',

q5exe = executable('qt5test',
  sources     : ['main.cpp',
  dependencies: qt5widgets)

Here we have an UI file created with Qt Designer and one source and header file each that require preprocessing with the moc tool. We also define a resource file to be compiled with rcc. We just have to tell Meson which files are which and it will take care of invoking all the necessary tools in the correct order, which is done with the preprocess method of the qt5 module. Its output is simply put in the list of sources for the target. The modules keyword of dependency works just like it does with Boost. It tells which subparts of Qt the program uses.

You can set the main keyword argument to true to use the WinMain() function provided by qtmain static library (this argument does nothing on platforms other than Windows).

Setting the optional private_headers keyword to true adds the private header include path of the given module(s) to the compiler flags. (since v0.47.0)

Note using private headers in your project is a bad idea, do so at your own risk.

method may be auto, pkg-config or qmake.


SDL2 can be located using pkg-confg, the sdl2-config config tool, as an OSX framework, or cmake.

method may be auto, config-tool, extraframework, pkg-config or cmake.


(added 0.51.0)

Meson will first attempt to find shaderc using pkg-config. Upstream currently ships three different pkg-config files and by default will check them in this order: shaderc, shaderc_combined, and shaderc_static. If the static keyword argument is true, then Meson instead checks in this order: shaderc_combined, shaderc_static, and shaderc.

If no pkg-config file is found, then Meson will try to detect the library manually. In this case, it will try to link against either -lshaderc_shared or -lshaderc_combined, preferring the latter if the static keyword argument is true. Note that it is not possible to obtain the shaderc version using this method.

method may be auto, pkg-config or system.


This dependency selects the appropriate compiler flags and/or libraries to use for thread support.

See threads.


Meson will find valgrind using pkg-config, but only uses the compilation flags and avoids trying to link with its non-PIC static libs.


(added 0.42.0)

Vulkan can be located using pkg-config, or the VULKAN_SDK environment variable.

method may be auto, pkg-config or system.


Similar to Boost, WxWidgets is not a single library but rather a collection of modules. WxWidgets is supported via wx-config. Meson substitutes modules to wx-config invocation, it generates

  • compile_args using wx-config --cxxflags $modules...
  • link_args using wx-config --libs $modules...


wx_dep = dependency(
  'wxwidgets', version : '>=3.0.0', modules : ['std', 'stc'],
# compile_args:
$ wx-config --cxxflags std stc

# link_args:
$ wx-config --libs std stc


Zlib ships with pkg-config and cmake support, but on some operating systems (windows, macOs, FreeBSD, dragonflybsd, android), it is provided as part of the base operating system without pkg-config support. The new System finder can be used on these OSes to link with the bundled version.

method may be auto, pkg-config, cmake, or system.

New in 0.54.0 the system method.

1: They may appear to be case-insensitive, if the underlying file system happens to be case-insensitive.

The results of the search are