4.2.14. rm — remove files or directories#

With the rm command, you can remove (or delete) files or directories.

The basic format of the command is:

rm source

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

rm -iv source

With -i (interactive), rm will require your confirmation before deleting a file or directory.

-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:

  1. 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.

  2. Create an empty directory:

    mkdir empty-dir

Removing files#

To remove a file, for example, the words file copied above, you can use:

rm -iv words


rm: remove regular file 'words'? y
removed 'words'

Removing directories#

Removing empty directories#

If the directory is empty, you can remove it using the -d option:

rm -d empty-dir

Alternatively, you can use the rmdir command:

rmdir empty-dir

Removing directories with content#

If the directory has some content i.e., files or subdirectories, you will need to add the -r (recursive) option.

For example, using the bash directory copied above:

rm -ivr bash

This command will ask for your confirmation for deleting every file in the directory and then delete it:

rm: descend into directory 'bash'? y
rm: remove regular file 'bash/RBASH'? y
removed 'bash/RBASH'
rm: remove regular file 'bash/README.gz'? y
removed 'bash/README.gz'
rm: remove directory 'bash'? y
removed directory 'bash'

Instead of -i, you could use the -I option, which will only prompt once, when removing directories recursively:

rm -Ivr bash


rm: remove 1 argument recursively? y
removed 'bash/RBASH'
removed 'bash/README.gz'
removed directory 'bash'

If you are completely sure you do not need the directory and its contents, you can force its removal using the -f option:

rm -vrf bash

rm will delete the directory without confirmation.


Adding an alias for rm#

Rather than typing rm -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 rm='rm -iv'

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