Tricks in using Kotlin `internal`


A well-known problem of Kotlin’s internal accessibility modifier is that it’s actually compiled to public on JVM level so it’s possible to access a Kotlin module’s internal definitions with non-Kotlin projects if using the Kotlin module as an external jar, which violates the design purpose of the internal modifier – it’s defined as only accessible in the current module while the concept of module is Kotlin-specific.


Reflection can still violate anything. This article will not consider reflections. (even private definitions are accessible via reflections!)

I’ll introduce a very tricky solution here. It’s essentially taking advantage of Java’s poorness of its syntax.

Consider this internal function in Kotlin:

internal fun zython() {

we can access it in another Java module. Kotlin compiler will complain about an access violation if it’s aware of this cross-module invocation, while Java (or Scala, Ceylon, Eta, etc.) programmers can isolate the Kotlin compiler from this invalid access.

Method One

Use @JvmName.

This annotation specifies the name of the function generated in Java bytecode, which can be different from the function name in Kotlin. The function name in Kotlin code can still be used, but only in Kotlin.

We can specify a name that is not a valid Java (or Scala, Ceylon, Eta, etc.) identifier.

Like, prefixing the function name with a space.

@JvmName(" zython")
internal fun zython() {

or if you like Haskell you may do:

@JvmName("{-# LANGUAGE Zython #-}")
internal fun zython() {

In this way we’re restricting the invocation of this function to Kotlin only, because you simply cannot refer to this function in non-Kotlin languages (except using reflection, which is already claimed to be not considered).

To invoke this function in another module, Kotlin is needed, while Kotlin compiler will reject this invocation because it’s internal.

Try it online!

Method Two

Since crappy names are allowed, why not have a try.

Kotlin supports surrounding an invalid identifier with a pair of ` to force it to be valid. There are similar syntax in languages like C# or Rust, but those languages are using a single prefix instead of a pair of prefix and suffix. It’s designed for using Java names which are keywords in Kotlin, like System.`in`. Here we’re abusing it.

Adding a space still works:

internal fun ` zython`() {

or Haskell-ish style:

internal fun `{-# LANGUAGE Zython #-}`() {

I am using the latter method in a file in a personal project – not for internal, but for visual effect (it looks like a Haskell pragma!)

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