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Many terms and definitions are borrowed from the Ethereum Yellow Paper.

An Aztec transaction may include one or more public execution requests. A public execution request is a request to execute a specified contract's public bytecode given some arguments. Execution of a contract's public bytecode is performed by the Aztec Virtual Machine (AVM).

A public execution request may originate from a public call enqueued by a transaction's private segment (enqueuedPublicFunctionCalls), or from a public fee preparation or fee distribution call.

In order to execute public contract bytecode, the AVM requires some context. An execution context contains all information necessary to initiate AVM execution, including the relevant contract's bytecode and all state maintained by the AVM. A contract call initializes an execution context and triggers AVM execution within that context.

Instruction-by-instruction, the AVM executes the bytecode specified in its context. An instruction is a decoded bytecode entry that, when executed, modifies the AVM's execution context (in particular its state) according to the instruction's definition in the "AVM Instruction Set". Execution within a context ends when the AVM encounters a halt.

During execution, additional contract calls may be made. While an initial contract call initializes a new execution context directly from a public execution request, a nested contract call occurs during AVM execution and is triggered by a contract call instruction (CALL, STATICCALL, or DELEGATECALL). It initializes a new execution context (nested context) from the current one (calling context) and triggers execution within it. When nested call's execution completes, execution proceeds in the calling context.

A caller is a contract call's initiator. The caller of an initial contract call is an Aztec sequencer. The caller of a nested contract call is the AVM itself executing in the calling context.


  • State: the state maintained by the AVM
  • Memory model: the AVM's type-tagged memory model
  • Execution context: the AVM's execution context and its initialization for initial contract calls
  • Execution: control flow, gas tracking, normal halting, and exceptional halting
  • Nested contract calls: the initiation of a contract call from an instruction as well as the processing of nested execution results, gas refunds, and state reverts
  • Instruction set: the list of all instructions supported by the AVM
  • AVM Circuit: the AVM as a SNARK circuit for proving execution

The sections prior to the "AVM Circuit" are meant to provide a high-level definition of the Aztec Virtual Machine as opposed to a specification of its SNARK implementation. They therefore mostly omit SNARK or circuit-centric verbiage except when particularly relevant to the high-level architecture.

For an explanation of the AVM's bytecode, refer to "AVM Bytecode".

Public contract bytecode

A contract's public bytecode is a series of execution instructions for the AVM. Refer to the "AVM Instruction Set" for the details of all supported instructions along with how they modify AVM state.

The entirety of a contract's public code is represented as a single block of bytecode with a maximum of MAX_PUBLIC_INSTRUCTIONS_PER_CONTRACT (215=327682^{15} = 32768) instructions. The mechanism used to distinguish between different "functions" in an AVM bytecode program is left as a higher-level abstraction (e.g. similar to Solidity's concept of a function selector).

See the Bytecode Validation Circuit to see how a contract's bytecode can be validated and committed to.