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Provides a subclass of Thread with facilities to raise an exception in the thread or terminate the thread from another thread.

Project description

terminable_thread provides a subclass of threading.Thread, adding the facility to raise exceptions in the context of the given thread.

This facility is incorporated in the terminable_thread.Thread methods raise_exc, which raises an arbitrary exception, and terminate, which raises SystemExit.

This is not done in an entirely robust manner, and there may be unreported issues with it.

It uses the unexposed PyThreadState_SetAsyncExc function (via ctypes) to raise an exception for the given thread.


Check the module doctest for a simple usage example.


The code used in this module is taken most directly from Tomer Filiba’s thread2 recipe.

Similar code has been floating around the net for some time now in various incarnations; however, the code on Tomer’s page seems to be the most complete.

His page references a post by Antoon Pardon, previously available at, as an inspiration.

Tomer has indicated that the code on his page is in the public domain.


The following issues are mentioned on the recipe page:

  • The exception will be raised only when executing python bytecode. If your thread calls a native/built-in blocking function, the exception will be raised only when execution returns to the python code.

    • There is also an issue if the built-in function internally calls PyErr_Clear(), which would effectively cancel your pending exception. You can try to raise it again.

  • Only exception types can be raised safely. Exception instances are likely to cause unexpected behavior, and are thus restricted.

  • I asked to expose this function in the built-in thread module, but since ctypes has become a standard library (as of 2.5), and this feature is not likely to be implementation-agnostic, it may be kept unexposed.

In addition to these issues, or rather as an elaboration of the first one, I’ve noticed that catching of exceptions does not function as expected.


  • If the thread wraps some functions with a try/except clause, the except may not catch an interrupt exception. This will happen, for instance, with a time.sleep call.

    For an example of this, see the method FetcherTester.test_incorrect_fission in the test suite for the pqueue_fetcher module.

    I guess I’ll port that test into this module at some point.


terminable_thread is available from the github repo or from PyPI.


As mentioned above, Tomer has indicated that the code on his site is public domain.

I’m not entirely sure what that means legally, since

  • the term “public domain” is often used informally, to just mean that no license has been applied.

  • the definition of “public domain”, when used formally, is dependent on the laws of a particular region.

So it’s a bit complicated and vague, but he did say that I could do whatever I wanted with it, so I’ve chosen to prevent such ambiguities in the future by licensing this derivation under the WTFPL.

The license terms are given in the file COPYING.

(Lack of) Warranty

As mentioned at the top, I myself am not entirely convinced of the reliability of this code.

I might get around to writing a more thorough test suite at some point.

Please bear that, as well as the following Official Disclaimer, in mind when (considering) using it:

This program is free software.
It comes without any warranty, to the extent permitted by applicable law.
You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the
Do What The Fuck You Want To Public License, Version 2,
as published by Sam Hocevar.
See for more details.

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