What is the difference between g++ and gcc? – Dev

The best answers to the question “What is the difference between g++ and gcc?” in the category Dev.


What is the difference between g++ and gcc? Which one of them should be used for general c++ development?


GCC: GNU Compiler Collection

  • Referrers to all the different languages that are supported by the GNU compiler.

gcc: GNU C      Compiler
g++: GNU C++ Compiler

The main differences:

  1. gcc will compile: *.c\*.cpp files as C and C++ respectively.
  2. g++ will compile: *.c\*.cpp files but they will all be treated as C++ files.
  3. Also if you use g++ to link the object files it automatically links in the std C++ libraries (gcc does not do this).
  4. gcc compiling C files has fewer predefined macros.
  5. gcc compiling *.cpp and g++ compiling *.c\*.cpp files has a few extra macros.

Extra Macros when compiling *.cpp files:

#define __GXX_WEAK__ 1
#define __cplusplus 1
#define __DEPRECATED 1
#define __GNUG__ 4
#define __EXCEPTIONS 1
#define __private_extern__ extern


gcc and g++ are compiler-drivers of the GNU Compiler Collection (which was once upon a time just the GNU C Compiler).

Even though they automatically determine which backends (cc1 cc1plus …) to call depending on the file-type, unless overridden with -x language, they have some differences.

The probably most important difference in their defaults is which libraries they link against automatically.

According to GCC’s online documentation link options and how g++ is invoked, g++ is equivalent to gcc -xc++ -lstdc++ -shared-libgcc (the 1st is a compiler option, the 2nd two are linker options). This can be checked by running both with the -v option (it displays the backend toolchain commands being run).


What is the difference between g++ and gcc?

gcc has evolved from a single language “GNU C Compiler” to be a multi-language “GNU Compiler Collection”. The term gcc may still sometimes refer to the “GNU C Compiler” in the context of C programming.

man gcc

# GCC(1)                     GNU
#        gcc - GNU project C and C++ compiler

However, g++ is the C++ compiler for the GNU Compiler Collection. Like gnat is the Ada compiler for gcc. see Using the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC)

For example, the Ubuntu 16.04 and 18.04 man g++ command returns the GCC(1) manual page.

The Ubuntu 16.04 and 18.04 man gcc states that …

g++ accepts mostly the same options as gcc

and that the default …

… use of gcc does not add the C++ library. g++ is a program
that calls GCC and automatically specifies linking against the C++
library. It treats .c, .h and .i files as C++ source files instead of
C source files unless -x is used. This program is also useful when
precompiling a C header file with a .h extension for use in C++

Search the gcc man pages for more details on the option variances between gcc and g++.

Which one should be used for general c++ development?

Technically, either gcc or g++ can be used for general C++ development with applicable option settings. However, the g++ default behavior is naturally aligned to a C++ development.

The Ubuntu 18.04 ‘gcc’ man page added, and Ubuntu 20.04 continues to have, the following paragraph:

The usual way to run GCC is to run the executable called gcc, or machine-gcc when cross-compiling, or machine-gcc-version to run a specific version of GCC. When you compile C++ programs, you should invoke GCC as g++ instead.


For c++ you should use g++.

It’s the same compiler (e.g. the GNU compiler collection). GCC or G++ just choose a different front-end with different default options.

In a nutshell: if you use g++ the frontend will tell the linker that you may want to link with the C++ standard libraries. The gcc frontend won’t do that (also it could link with them if you pass the right command line options).