Variable variables

Sometimes it is convenient to be able to have variable variable names. That is, a variable name which can be set and used dynamically. A normal variable is set with a statement such as:

$a = "hello";

A variable variable takes the value of a variable and treats that as the name of a variable. In the above example, hello, can be used as the name of a variable by using two dollar signs. i.e.

$$a = "world";

At this point two variables have been defined and stored in the PHP symbol tree: $a with contents "hello" and $hello with contents "world". Therefore, this statement:

echo "$a ${$a}";

produces the exact same output as:

echo "$a $hello";

i.e. they both produce: hello world.

In order to use variable variables with arrays, you have to resolve an ambiguity problem. That is, if you write $$a[1] then the parser needs to know if you meant to use $a[1] as a variable, or if you wanted $$a as the variable and then the [1] index from that variable. The syntax for resolving this ambiguity is: ${$a[1]} for the first case and ${$a}[1] for the second.