Loop splitting

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Short description: Compiler optimization technique

Loop splitting is a compiler optimization technique. It attempts to simplify a loop or eliminate dependencies by breaking it into multiple loops which have the same bodies but iterate over different contiguous portions of the index range.

Loop peeling

Loop peeling is a special case of loop splitting which splits any problematic first (or last) few iterations from the loop and performs them outside of the loop body.

Suppose a loop was written like this:

int p = 10;
 for (int i=0; i<10; ++i)
   y[i] = x[i] + x[p];
   p = i;

Notice that p = 10 only for the first iteration, and for all other iterations, p = i - 1. A compiler can take advantage of this by unwinding (or "peeling") the first iteration from the loop.

After peeling the first iteration, the code would look like this:

y[0] = x[0] + x[10];
 for (int i=1; i<10; ++i)
   y[i] = x[i] + x[i-1];

This equivalent form eliminates the need for the variable p inside the loop body.

Loop peeling was introduced in gcc in version 3.4. More generalised loop splitting was added in GCC 7.[1]

Brief history of the term

Apparently the term was for the first time used by Cannings, Thompson and Skolnick[2] in their 1976 paper on computational models for (human) inheritance. There the term was used to denote a method for collapsing phenotypic information onto parents. From there the term was used again in their papers, including their seminal paper on probability functions on complex pedigrees.[3]

In compiler technology, the term first turned up in late 1980s papers on VLIW and superscalar compilation, including [4] and.[5]


  1. GCC 7 Release Series — Changes, New Features, and Fixes - GNU Project
  2. "The recursive derivation of likelihoods on complex pedigrees". Advances in Applied Probability 8 (4): 622–625. 1976. doi:10.2307/1425918. 
  3. "Probability functions on complex pedigrees". Advances in Applied Probability 10 (1): 26–61. 1978. doi:10.2307/1426718. 
  4. "Compiling Programs for Distributed-memory Multiprocessors". The Journal of Supercomputing 2 (2): 151–169. 1988. doi:10.1007/BF00128175. 
  5. "Effective compiler support for predicated execution using the hyperblock". 25th Annual International Symposium on Microarchitecture. 1992. pp. 45–54. 

Further reading