Following the advice of a friend of mine, I started learning git. I read manual (basic sections) and I think understood most regarding commits, branches, setting backward, forward, etc. but when it comes to sync local repository with remote one, I feel slightly lost.

I am currently testing git on my testrepository. I was adding files and folders locally, then updating a repository using website by adding additional files. Then I fetched files, merged commits and eventually I synchronised remote and local repositories. Now, I have got this log:

*   5cf86124752ed91bde703bca0133b904b356c430 (HEAD -> master, origin/master, origin/HEAD) Merge branch 'master' into HEAD
| * 510cb404d9a7d062739da7960546187436941e8e Add folder_local1/{folde_local1_program1, folde_local1_program2, folde_local1_program3}
* | d7461473939ee6663535650fec08962b30865c6e Delete folder_server2_program4.java
* | 010aba572c7424e81446e151433805ec6d2d92ea Delete folder_server2_program3.java
* | a30e5a06923935edbcb362afb6cf5dc169ec5a61 Delete folder_server2_program2.java
* | 89dc387d36a0370844bf90bc028e9b335de2b0b5 Delete folder_server2_program1.java
* | f80348f8fa02960cd20f349a862b7a31700a0fdd Delete x
* | 12deed224204c2ef5ab60c92f39682628fb23ab1 Add files via upload
* | f00f6b3d4feecd00f1258f32456e4bb5e2b4af4b Create x
* | 0e7965394aa9d36a17fefb2b52c032627c1e8e28 Add files via upload
* | 7d594dcdcd4b169a0563f63070c8975a5ee1bc27 Add files via upload
* | c078101bae4a3413700242025f2db9c4aeb9b1d8 Add files via upload
* | 9dab1a30425e4fc57e57770deb475dea341ab136 Update folder_server1_program1.java
* | 41b6ecad4759fdadcda8955046582178693612ae Create folder_server1_program1.java
*   be40ad56685d5f836b88de960feb2d7b881e6f93 Merge branch 'master' of github.com:FranekW/testrepository
| * 2790ba683034812c83da1310993e6326f91da42d Create README.md
* | 9caf9163056ccfc0b06cdd28704dee912f1643b5 Add folder1/{folder1_program1, folder1_program2, folder1_program3}
* 376fe054b95134d7953cfafe3b70931ff036fbb8 Initial commit

Firs of all, origin/master and origin/HEAD are both in red. Second, I don't understand what is origin/HEAD doing there? I though HEAD is a pointer that points at my current commit. Could someone explain if the log is OK or I messed up too much. And also how to understand origin/HEAD.

Many thanks

1 Answer 1


HEAD has a few additional uses.

Due to HEAD being a pointer to the "current" commit, it is also the commit you get by default when cloning that repository. So in remote repositories, even though they don't have a worktree, HEAD can still exist as a pointer to the "default" branch – the one that clones will check out automatically.

(For example, some projects point HEAD of the "master" repo to a 'dev' or 'stable' branch instead of master, so that people get something more useful by default.)

In your case however, after cloning, Git keeps the <remote>/HEAD ref around because it has yet another use: it defines the branch Git tools will try if only the remote name is specified.

For example, normally you couldn't do git log origin, since refs/remotes/origin/ is a directory, thus cannot point anywhere. However, Git then automatically looks for origin/HEAD and gives you whatever branch that points to.

(This is settable using git remote set-head origin ... to whatever branch you find convenient.)

  • 1
    Hi. It makes a little bit more sense to me now but I am afraid I need more reading about remote branches, distributed git and git internals. Thanks
    – Celdor
    Mar 28, 2017 at 7:34
  • 1) "in remote repositories, /—/ HEAD can still exist as a pointer to the "default" branch – the one that clones will check out automatically", 2) "after cloning, Git keeps the <remote>/HEAD ref around because /—/ it defines the branch Git tools will try if only the remote name is specified". So <remote>/HEAD has two different meanings — one before and the other after cloning?
    – jaam
    Oct 12, 2023 at 23:00

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