Bash Shell: Remove (Trim) White Spaces From String / Variable

I have a bash variable as follows:

output="$(awk -F',' '/Name/ {print $9}' input.file)"

How do trim leading and trailing whitespace from bash variable called $output? How do I trim trailing whitespace from $output?

You can use sed, awk, cut, tr, and other utilities to remove whitespace from $output.

Sample data

Tutorial details
Difficulty Easy (rss)
Root privileges No
Requirements Linux/Unix+Bash/Ksh
Time N/A
Define a variable called ouput:

output=" This is a test"

Use echo statement to display $output:

echo "=${output}="
Sample outputs:

=    This is a test=

sed Example

The syntax is:

echo "${output}" | sed -e 's/^[ \t]*//'

Sample outputs:

This is a test

Bash Example

The syntax is to remove leading whitespaces:

${var##*( )}

For example:

# Just remove leading whiltespace
#turn it on
shopt -s extglob
output="    This is a test"
output="${output##*( )}"
echo "=${output}="
# turn it off
shopt -u extglob

Sample outputs:

=This is a test=

To trim leading and trailing whitespace using bash, try:

#turn it on
shopt -s extglob
output="    This is a test    "
### Trim leading whitespaces ###
output="${output##*( )}"
### trim trailing whitespaces  ##
output="${output%%*( )}
echo "=${output}="
# turn it off
shopt -u extglob

Sample outputs:

=This is a test=

awk Example

The syntax is:

output="    This is a test    "
echo "=${output}="
## Use awk to trim leading and trailing whitespace
echo "${output}" | awk '{gsub(/^ +| +$/,"")} {print "=" $0 "="}'

Sample outputs:

=This is a test=

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🐧 16 comments so far... add one

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16 comments… add one
  • xof Jan 18, 2013 @ 8:43

    check the title it says “While” Spaces

  • Eugéne Jan 23, 2013 @ 12:37

    I tend to just stick to sed for this typeof thing:

    jsoap@nixbox:~$ output=" This is a test  "
    jsoap@nixbox:~$ echo "=${output}="
    = This is a test  =
    jsoap@nixbox:~$ output=$( echo "${output}"| sed -e 's/^ *//' -e 's/ *$//' );
    jsoap@nixbox:~$ echo "=${output}="
    =This is a test=

    Since a lot of my work needs to live on BSD, AIX and Solaris, as well as on Linux, I tend to script very defensively and portably. It has saved my butt more times than bears mentioning…

  • Shantanu Gadgil Feb 16, 2013 @ 10:34

    If the content is a single line of text, why not just use echo ?

    $VAR=$(echo $VAR)

    notice there are no double-quotes for the inner $VAR

    • Shantanu Gadgil Feb 21, 2013 @ 9:26

      … slight error …. it should be

      VAR=$(echo $VAR)
  • Keith Feb 22, 2013 @ 18:22

    This is the BEST site in the world. I can’t tell you how many times I have wound up here to find the answer to my question or problem. Great resource, thanks!!!

  • Krishna Chappidi Feb 26, 2013 @ 15:41

    Could you please help me out….
    Here is my scenario:
    1. i am listing some of the processes which are active and sending the output to temp.txt.
    2. i got many processes, if i want to kill/doing some thing with any inactive process it should throw an error message.
    3. how do i work with pattern matching commands in temp.txt?
    Please suggest me the better answer..

  • Larry Helms Feb 27, 2013 @ 1:50
    m=$( echo "${output}" | sed -e "s/^\ *//g" -e "s/\ *$//g")
    echo "=${m}="
    =This is a test=
  • Leszek Feb 4, 2014 @ 8:11

    Very helpful. Thanks.

  • Eric Sep 7, 2014 @ 22:40

    I’m not sure why the examples use extglob in bash. It’s completely unneeded when using the ## or %% operators. ${VAR%% } will remove trailing whitespace, as long as it’s not mixed tabs and spaces.

  • Riccardo Jan 16, 2015 @ 9:12

    echo ” blah ” | awk ‘{print $NF }’

  • Shark Apr 9, 2015 @ 7:16

    You can also pipe to tr this:

    shark@debian:~$ echo "=    This is a test="|tr -s " "
    = This is a test=
  • parinay May 28, 2015 @ 13:17
    "${output##*( )}" output="${output%%*( )} 

    Is this bash version specific ? Any reference for the same ?


  • Vijay P Dec 10, 2015 @ 7:24

    This is great useful site!!

  • apexik Aug 5, 2016 @ 22:10

    I extend the ‘Bash Example’ as follows:
    useful for whitespaces the ${var##*(tab|space)} form, where the tab is itself, and the space is also itself, it look like ${var##*( | )} or ${var%%( | )} typed in editor.

    Thanks, and best regards, Miki

  • sparky Sep 7, 2016 @ 16:32

    awk ‘{$1=$1};1’

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