C++ exceptions support

C++ exceptions support can be enabled in emscripten using -fexceptions. Note that unlike on most platforms, C++ exceptions are disabled by default due to their current overhead, see later.

Passing -fexceptions at compile time will pass the relevant flags to clang, and at link time it also links in system libraries with exceptions support.


For example, build the following program with emcc -fexceptions:

#include <stdio.h>

int main() {
  try {
    throw 1;
    puts("(never reached)");
  } catch(...) {
  return 0;

Running it will print throw... and then catch!.


Until wasm gets direct support for exceptions, Emscripten supports them using JavaScript for throwing and catching. As a result, every time we might need to catch an exception we call out into JavaScript to a try-catch there. This increases code size and adds significant overhead.

You can reduce the overhead by specifying a list of allowed functions in which exceptions are enabled, see the EXCEPTION_CATCHING_ALLOWED setting.

In the future direct support for exceptions in wasm will avoid that overhead. Usage will be as mentioned earlier, but with -fwasm-exceptions instead of -fexceptions.