These options come into play when the compiler links object files into an executable output file. They are meaningless if the compiler is not doing a link step.
It makes a difference where in the command you write this option; the linker searches and processes libraries and object files in the order they are specified. Thus, foo.o -lz bar.o searches library z after file foo.o but before bar.o. If bar.o refers to functions in z, those functions may not be loaded.
The linker searches a standard list of directories for the library, which is actually a file named liblibrary.a. The linker then uses this file as if it had been specified precisely by name.
The directories searched include several standard system directories plus any that you specify with -L.
Normally the files found this way are library files—archive files
whose members are object files. The linker handles an archive file by
scanning through it for members which define symbols that have so far
been referenced but not defined. But if the file that is found is an
ordinary object file, it is linked in the usual fashion. The only
difference between using an -l option and specifying a file name
is that -l surrounds library with lib and .a
and searches several directories.
One of the standard libraries bypassed by -nostdlib and
-nodefaultlibs is libgcc.a, a library of internal subroutines
that GCC uses to overcome shortcomings of particular machines, or special
needs for some languages.
(See Interfacing to GCC Output (GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) Internals),
for more discussion of libgcc.a.)
In most cases, you need libgcc.a even when you want to avoid
other standard libraries. In other words, when you specify -nostdlib
or -nodefaultlibs you should usually specify -lgcc as well.
This ensures that you have no unresolved references to internal GCC
library subroutines. (For example, __main, used to ensure C++
constructors will be called; see
collect2 (GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) Internals).)
There are several situations in which an application should use the shared libgcc instead of the static version. The most common of these is when the application wishes to throw and catch exceptions across different shared libraries. In that case, each of the libraries as well as the application itself should use the shared libgcc.
Therefore, the G++ and GCJ drivers automatically add -shared-libgcc whenever you build a shared library or a main executable, because C++ and Java programs typically use exceptions, so this is the right thing to do.
If, instead, you use the GCC driver to create shared libraries, you may find that they will not always be linked with the shared libgcc. If GCC finds, at its configuration time, that you have a non-GNU linker or a GNU linker that does not support option --eh-frame-hdr, it will link the shared version of libgcc into shared libraries by default. Otherwise, it will take advantage of the linker and optimize away the linking with the shared version of libgcc, linking with the static version of libgcc by default. This allows exceptions to propagate through such shared libraries, without incurring relocation costs at library load time.
However, if a library or main executable is supposed to throw or catch
exceptions, you must link it using the G++ or GCJ driver, as appropriate
for the languages used in the program, or using the option
-shared-libgcc, such that it is linked with the shared
If you want to pass an option that takes an argument, you must use
-Xlinker twice, once for the option and once for the argument.
For example, to pass -assert definitions, you must write
-Xlinker -assert -Xlinker definitions. It does not work to write
-Xlinker "-assert definitions", because this passes the entire
string as a single argument, which is not what the linker expects.
 On some systems, gcc -shared needs to build supplementary stub code for constructors to work. On multi-libbed systems, gcc -shared must select the correct support libraries to link against. Failing to supply the correct flags may lead to subtle defects. Supplying them in cases where they are not necessary is innocuous.