Out of curiosity, I tried to kill Vim from inside vim --clean. I tried:

  • :!kill $PPID
  • :call system('kill ' . getpid())

However, nothing happens after running the commands above. The commands give no output, and v:shell_error is 0 in both cases. I noticed that kill works perfectly when run from outside Vim; Vim terminates when it receives the TERM signal: Vim: Caught deadly signal TERM Vim: Finished..

Why is it not possible to kill Vim from inside Vim using the commands above?

  • 1
    Note that !kill -9 $PPID works for me (but !kill $PPID) doesn't, so it's probably about how vim handles signals... But I'm not enough of a linux guru to give more insights :) Also kill without -9 works from a term buffer.
    – statox
    Mar 16, 2021 at 11:25

1 Answer 1


A process can block, ignore, or catch signals. You can see how a given process handles signals with this shell command:

$ cat /proc/PID/status | grep -E '^Sig(Blk|Ign|Cgt):'
                                       │   │   │
                                       │   │   └ caught signals
                                       │   └ ignored signals
                                       └ blocked signals

Replace PID with Vim's pid (process ID).

You'll get some output which could look like this:

SigBlk: 0000000000000000
SigIgn: 0000000000003000
SigCgt: 00000001ef824eff

The numbers on the right are bitmasks written in hexadecimal. To understand their meaning, you must convert them in binary; for example with bc(1):

$ echo 'ibase=16;obase=2;ABC123' | bc

The index of each non-zero bit stands for the number of a signal.

So, for example, if you have this bitmask:

SigCgt: 00000000280b2603

It can be converted in binary, and interpreted like so:

SigCgt: 101010111100000100100011
                       │  │   ││
                       │  │   │└ the signal 1 is caught (SIGHUP)
                       │  │   └ the signal 2 is caught (SIGINT)
                       │  └ the signal 6 is caught (SIGUSR1)
                       └ ...

Here is a short shell script which I sometimes use while debugging a process:


if [[ $# -eq 0 ]]; then
  cat <<EOF >&2
  $0 <pid>

  exit 64

# https://unix.stackexchange.com/a/85365/289772
bitmask2signals() {
  bits="$(printf 'ibase=16; obase=2; %X\n' "0x$1" | bc)"
  while [[ -n "${bits}" ]]; do
    i=$((i + 1))
    if [[ "${bits}" == *1 ]]; then
      printf ' %s(%s)' "$(kill -l "$i")" "$i"

grep -E '^Sig(Blk|Ign|Cgt):' "/proc/$1/status" |
  while read -r a b; do
    printf '%s%s\n' "$a" "$(bitmask2signals "$b")"

It's taken and adapted from this unix.stackexchange.com answer. If I pass the pid of a Vim process as an argument to the script, here is its output:

SigIgn: PIPE(13) ALRM(14)
SigCgt: HUP(1) INT(2) QUIT(3) ILL(4) TRAP(5) ABRT(6) BUS(7) FPE(8) USR1(10) SEGV(11) USR2(12) TERM(15) CONT(18) XCPU(24) XFSZ(25) VTALRM(26) PROF(27) WINCH(28) PWR(30) SYS(31) (32) (33)

Notice that TERM(15) is on the third line SigCgt. SIGTERM is the default signal sent to a process when using kill(1) on linux. As you can see, Vim catches it.

For a process, catching a signal means that it has registered a handler which will be automatically run whenever the signal is received. This handler will determine the behavior of the process.

For Vim, I think the handler is defined here. Notice that the comment says that the caught signals are blocked when Vim is busy:

 * Handling of SIGHUP, SIGQUIT and SIGTERM:
 * "when" == a signal:       when busy, postpone and return FALSE, otherwise
 *                           return TRUE
 * "when" == SIGNAL_BLOCK:   Going to be busy, block signals
 * "when" == SIGNAL_UNBLOCK: Going to wait, unblock signals, use postponed
 *                           signal
 * Returns TRUE when Vim should exit.

My guess is that when you invoke system(), Vim is busy waiting for the shell command to finish; so it blocks the signal. This is confirmed by the fact that the issue disappears if you use job_start() instead:

:call job_start('kill ' . getpid())

Because in that case, Vim doesn't need to wait for the command to finish.

  • 1
    And for the signals table, man 7 ascii or kill -L.
    – Quasímodo
    Mar 16, 2021 at 19:17

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