Say I have these three script files: (all 3 are executable)


HelloFromBash RocketNuts


HelloFromZsh RocketNuts


HelloFromSh RocketNuts

As you can tell from the shebangs, these scripts are being executed by different shells i.e. bash, zsh, and sh respectively.

Those three functions 'HelloFromXyz' are all 3 supposed to be defined like this:
function HelloFromBash { echo "Hello $1, this is Bash speaking" }
and similar for the zsh and sh variants.

But the thing is: I want want to define these functions globally, one for each particular shell.

How or where do I define global functions for these three shells? So that when I run the three scripts above, they can each use the particular global function for that shell.

If there is one, uniform way to define (or export, or whatever the appropriate term is) global functions for multiple shells simultaneously, that's even better. But I believe this is not the case, each shell seems to use its own mechanism.

(edit) I understand there may be differences whether it's an interactive shell and/or a login shell or not. I would want the function to be available in shell scripts in all cases. So I can open a terminal manually, and run a script which uses said global function. Or I can run a background process which invokes the same shell scripts.
If that requires defining or exporting the same function in multiple files, or including/sourcing one in another, I'd love to learn the details.

  • There are some things scripts cannot do and functions can. Please confirm you need functions in the first place. If you don't necessarily need functions, just write any number of scripts in any language (with proper shebangs), make them executable and place them in a custom bin directory. Then they will be available in any shell, as long as your PATH includes the custom bin as the first entry. Their behavior will not depend on the invoking shell. Apr 13, 2020 at 12:58
  • @KamilMaciorowski In that case, how/where do I define the PATH to ensure it contains my bin dir in any script, in any shell, regardless whether it's an interactive or login shell or not?
    – RocketNuts
    Apr 13, 2020 at 14:01
  • 1
    See this. Apr 13, 2020 at 14:14
  • @KamilMaciorowski Thanks, much appreciated. I probably might be able to work around my current use case using scripts instead of functions. However in order to get a better understanding and deeper knowledge of these shell contexts, I would really like to know how to set this up for actual functions as well. If you (or anyone) would have a useful guide somewhere, that'd be awesome.
    – RocketNuts
    Apr 13, 2020 at 14:18

1 Answer 1


If you want to define a "library" of function to use in your scripts, write them in a file that you "source" in the script that use the function:

"Library" file:

function the_function {
    # whatever


# include the library
source /path/to/the/library # You can also use ". /path/to/the/library"

# Or, of caller and library are in the same directory
source $(dirname "$0")/library 

# Call the function in it
the_function arg1 arg2

The library file doesn't need to be executable not does it need a shebang so it can be used by bash and ksh (and perhaps zsh) if coded adequately.

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