Linux / Unix Bash Shell List All Builtin Commands

Posted on in Categories , , last updated March 19, 2013

Builtin commands are contained within the bash shell itself. How do I list all bash builtin commands under Linux / Apple OS X / *BSD / Unix like operating systems without reading large bash man page?

A shell builtin is nothing but a command or a function, called from a shell, that is executed directly in the shell itself. The bash shell executes the command directly, without invoking another program.


  1. Bourne Shell Builtins: Builtin commands inherited from the Bourne Shell.
  2. Bash Builtins: Table of builtins specific to Bash.
  3. Modifying Shell Behavior: Builtins to modify shell attributes and optional behavior.
  4. Special Builtins: Builtin commands classified specially by POSIX.

Command to see all bash builtins

Type the following command:
$ help
$ help | less

Sample outputs:

GNU bash, version 4.1.5(1)-release (x86_64-pc-linux-gnu)
These shell commands are defined internally.  Type `help' to see this list.
Type `help name' to find out more about the function `name'.
Use `info bash' to find out more about the shell in general.
Use `man -k' or `info' to find out more about commands not in this list.
A star (*) next to a name means that the command is disabled.
 job_spec [&]                            history [-c] [-d offset] [n] or hist>
 (( expression ))                        if COMMANDS; then COMMANDS; [ elif C>
 . filename [arguments]                  jobs [-lnprs] [jobspec ...] or jobs >
 :                                       kill [-s sigspec | -n signum | -sigs>
 [ arg... ]                              let arg [arg ...]
 [[ expression ]]                        local [option] name[=value] ...
 alias [-p] [name[=value] ... ]          logout [n]
 bg [job_spec ...]                       mapfile [-n count] [-O origin] [-s c>
 bind [-lpvsPVS] [-m keymap] [-f filen>  popd [-n] [+N | -N]
 break [n]                               printf [-v var] format [arguments]
 builtin [shell-builtin [arg ...]]       pushd [-n] [+N | -N | dir]
 caller [expr]                           pwd [-LP]
 case WORD in [PATTERN [| PATTERN]...)>  read [-ers] [-a array] [-d delim] [->
 cd [-L|-P] [dir]                        readarray [-n count] [-O origin] [-s>
 command [-pVv] command [arg ...]        readonly [-af] [name[=value] ...] or>
 compgen [-abcdefgjksuv] [-o option]  >  return [n]
 complete [-abcdefgjksuv] [-pr] [-DE] >  select NAME [in WORDS ... ;] do COMM>
 compopt [-o|+o option] [-DE] [name ..>  set [--abefhkmnptuvxBCHP] [-o option>
 continue [n]                            shift [n]
 coproc [NAME] command [redirections]    shopt [-pqsu] [-o] [optname ...]
 declare [-aAfFilrtux] [-p] [name[=val>  source filename [arguments]
 dirs [-clpv] [+N] [-N]                  suspend [-f]
 disown [-h] [-ar] [jobspec ...]         test [expr]
 echo [-neE] [arg ...]                   time [-p] pipeline
 enable [-a] [-dnps] [-f filename] [na>  times
 eval [arg ...]                          trap [-lp] [[arg] signal_spec ...]
 exec [-cl] [-a name] [command [argume>  true
 exit [n]                                type [-afptP] name [name ...]
 export [-fn] [name[=value] ...] or ex>  typeset [-aAfFilrtux] [-p] name[=val>
 false                                   ulimit [-SHacdefilmnpqrstuvx] [limit>
 fc [-e ename] [-lnr] [first] [last] o>  umask [-p] [-S] [mode]
 fg [job_spec]                           unalias [-a] name [name ...]
 for NAME [in WORDS ... ] ; do COMMAND>  unset [-f] [-v] [name ...]
 for (( exp1; exp2; exp3 )); do COMMAN>  until COMMANDS; do COMMANDS; done
 function name { COMMANDS ; } or name >  variables - Names and meanings of so>
 getopts optstring name [arg]            wait [id]
 hash [-lr] [-p pathname] [-dt] [name >  while COMMANDS; do COMMANDS; done
 help [-dms] [pattern ...]               { COMMANDS ; }

Find syntax and other options for builtins

Use the following syntax ‘ to find out more about the builtins commands:

help name
help cd
help fg
help for
help read
help :

Sample outputs:

:: :
    Null command.
    No effect; the command does nothing.
    Exit Status:
    Always succeeds

Find out if a command is internal (builtin) or external

Use the following syntax:

type -a command-name-here
type -a cd
type -a uname
type -a :
type -a ls


type -a cd uname : ls uname

Sample outputs:

cd is a shell builtin
uname is /bin/uname
: is a shell builtin
ls is aliased to `ls --color=auto'
ls is /bin/ls
l is a function
l () 
    ls --color=auto

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. He has worked with global clients and in various industries, including IT, education, defense and space research, and the nonprofit sector. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.

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