4.2.13. mv — move a file or directory#

With the mv command, you can move a file or directory from one location (source) to another (destination). You can choose to keep the existing file or directory name or rename them.

The basic format of the command is:

mv source destination

A safer approach is to add the -iv options to the command:

mv -iv source destination

With -i (interactive), mv will require your confirmation before overwriting a file or directory, if it exists already in destination.

-v (verbose) will print the command’s actions on the screen.

For convenience, you can add an alias.

Sample files#

To follow the examples below, you will need to copy the following files into your home directory using the cp command:

cp -v /usr/share/dict/words ~
cp -rv /usr/share/doc/bash ~

~ is a shortcut for home directory.

Moving a file or directory#

The simplest use case is to move a file or directory from one location (directory) to another.

Moving a File#

For example, to move the words file copied above into your Documents directory, use:

mv -iv words Documents/


renamed 'words' -> 'Documents/words'

Moving a directory#

Similarly, to move the bash directory copied above into your Documents directory, use:

mv -iv bash Documents/


renamed 'bash' -> 'Documents/bash'

In both cases, the file or directory name will not be changed.

Renaming a file or directory#

In this case, you would like to rename a file or directory.

Renaming a file#

To rename the words file copied above to dictionary.txt, use:

mv -iv words dictionary.txt

Alternatively, to move it into your Documents directory and rename it at the same time, use:

mv -iv words Documents/dictionary.txt

Renaming a directory#

To rename the bash directory copied above into bash-commands, use:

mv -iv bash bash-commands


What happens if a file exists?#

You will notice a prompt requesting you for confirmation to overwrite the file.

Type y and press the ENTER key to proceed:

mv: overwrite 'Documents/words'? y
renamed 'words' -> 'Documents/words'

To cancel, simply press ENTER key at the prompt.

What happens if a directory exists?#

mv will overwrite a directory only if it is empty. You can either:

  • copy files into destination directory or

  • rename the destination directory

Adding an alias for mv#

Rather than typing mv -iv, every time you need to use the command, you can add an alias for the command in your ~/.bash_aliases file.

For example:

alias mv='mv -iv'

Now, when you type mv, you will actually be running mv -iv.