I recently switched from bash to zsh. In bash, I used the dot alias . for the source command, e.g.

. .bashrc

It worked with . .bashrc, . ~/.bashrc, . ./.bashrc.

However with zsh, the dot alias does not work in the same way. It only works with a path to the file. But not if I use a file without path:

This does not work:

. .zshrc

It would give me this error: .: no such file or directory: .zshrc

But these all work:

source .zshrc
. ./.zshrc
. ~/.zshrc

1 Answer 1


That's actually the standard behavior of the dot command: it uses a $PATH search, just like when running commands – not a regular relative path. So you can have your common libraries in e.g. ~/bin/ and simply load them with . libwhatever.sh from any directory.

Performing a direct relative path lookup is a nonstandard Bash extension.

(Similarly, dot . is actually the main command listed in the "shell language" standard, and source is a shell-specific alias – not the other way around.)

  • 3
    Thanks, just out of curiosity, is there a way to have the "bash" behavior with zsh?
    – jost21
    Commented Nov 5, 2019 at 16:02
  • 2
    Relative paths are accepted as long as they contain a slash, so . ./.bashrc would source from the current directory. The manual doesn't offer any option to exactly match bash behavior – you would have to either use source or put the current directory in $path (which is a poor idea). Commented Nov 5, 2019 at 16:21
  • @jost21: If you're really, really want bash's behavior you could write a wrapper function, something like that function .() { [[ ! -f "$1" && -f "./$1" ]] && builtin . "./$1" || builtin . $@ } -- this (untested) snippet does not however take arguments into account.
    – mpy
    Commented Nov 5, 2019 at 17:47
  • 1
    (It also doesn't account for the first . returning non-zero status and causing an unwanted fallback to the second .. Really, && || does not work the same way as a ternary operator.) Commented Nov 5, 2019 at 18:13
  • @grawity: Oh yes, good point, thanks! I should have known better, but was too lazy to write if .. then .. else.
    – mpy
    Commented Nov 5, 2019 at 19:34

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