If the first element of a list being evaluated is a macro object, then the list is a macro call. When a macro call is evaluated, the elements of the rest of the list are not initially evaluated. Instead, these elements themselves are used as the arguments of the macro. The macro definition computes a replacement form, called the expansion of the macro, to be evaluated in place of the original form. The expansion may be any sort of form: a self-evaluating constant, a symbol, or a list. If the expansion is itself a macro call, this process of expansion repeats until some other sort of form results.
Ordinary evaluation of a macro call finishes by evaluating the expansion. However, the macro expansion is not necessarily evaluated right away, or at all, because other programs also expand macro calls, and they may or may not evaluate the expansions.
Normally, the argument expressions are not evaluated as part of computing the macro expansion, but instead appear as part of the expansion, so they are computed when the expansion is evaluated.
For example, given a macro defined as follows:
(defmacro cadr (x) (list 'car (list 'cdr x)))
an expression such as
(cadr (assq 'handler list)) is a macro
call, and its expansion is:
(car (cdr (assq 'handler list)))
Note that the argument
(assq 'handler list) appears in the
See Macros, for a complete description of Emacs Lisp macros.