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dirname is a standard UNIX computer program. When dirname is given a pathname, it will delete any suffix beginning with the last slash ('/') character and return the result. dirname is described in the Single UNIX Specification and is primarily used in shell scripts.


The Single UNIX Specification for dirname is.

dirname string
A pathname


dirname will retrieve the directory-path name from a pathname ignoring any trailing slashes

$ dirname /home/martin/docs/base.wiki

$ dirname /home/martin/docs/

$ dirname base.wiki

$ dirname /


Since dirname accepts only one operand, its usage within the inner loop of shell scripts can be detrimental to performance. Consider

 while read file; do
     dirname "$file"
 done < some-input

The above excerpt would cause a separate process invocation for each line of input. For this reason, shell substitution is typically used instead

 echo "${file%/*}";

or if relative pathnames need to be handled as well

 if [ -n "${file##*/*}" ]; then
     echo "."
     echo "${file%/*}";

Note that these handle trailing slashes differently than dirname.

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