Can anyone explain the Ubuntu's bash prompt?

It's basically username@box:~$ but the part that confuses me is $. Is it just a letter that can be of preference, or it has some actual meaning?

1 Answer 1


"$" was the default prompt string in sh, the Bourne shell. It doesn't have any special meaning besides showing that you are a normal user (the default prompt for root is "#").

Since bash ("Bourne Again" shell) is a derivative of sh, it continues to use $/# as part of its default prompt. Take a look at http://www.gilesorr.com/bashprompt/howto/x170.html and bash's manual page for information on how to customize it.

  • 1
    In Mac OS X, the root account is also deactivated by default, but you can get a root shell with sudo -s (or sudo sh or whatever). Can't you do something similar in Ubuntu? So even with the root account disabled, having the prompt change from $ to # is useful for keeping track of whether or not you're in a superuser shell.
    – Spiff
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 6:07
  • @Spiff yeah that works, but the normal way is to use sudo.
    – Darokthar
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 7:13
  • It also changes for different shells. cshell/tcshell uses '%' not '$' Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 16:38

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