The include_once() statement includes and evaluates the specified file during the execution of the script. This is a behavior similar to the include() statement, with the only difference being that if the code from a file has already been included, it will not be included again. As the name suggests, it will be included just once.
include_once() may be used in cases where the same file might be included and evaluated more than once during a particular execution of a script, so in this case it may help avoid problems such as function redefinitions, variable value reassignments, etc.
See the include() documentation for information about how this function works.
With PHP 4, _once functionality differs with case-insensitive operating systems (like Windows) so for example:
Example #1 include_once() with a case insensitive OS in PHP 4
include_once "a.php"; // this will include a.php
include_once "A.php"; // this will include a.php again! (PHP 4 only)
This behaviour changed in PHP 5, so for example with Windows the path is normalized first so that C:\PROGRA~1\A.php is realized the same as C:\Program Files\a.php and the file is included just once.