$ mySite="superuser"
$ readonly mySite
$ unset mySite
bash: unset: mySite: cannot unset: readonly variable

How can we delete mySite, as it is a readonly variable?


3 Answers 3


You can't delete mySite. The whole point of the readonly command is to make it final and permanent (until the shell process terminates). If you need to change a variable, don't mark it readonly.


Walker Hale IV's solution can be expressed in a much shorter fashion using options available in more recent versions of gdb:

gdb --batch-silent --pid=$$ --eval-command='call unbind_variable("mySite")'

Again, this is dark magic that should be kept well away from production environments.

  • Got error: 'unbind_variable' has unknown return type; cast the call to its declared return type. The declared return type is int (github.com). Success after adding (int): gdb --batch-silent --pid=$$ --eval-command='call (int) unbind_variable("mySite")' May 12, 2021 at 19:31

See https://stackoverflow.com/a/21294582/642372

This is dark magic. It uses gdb to tell the bash process to clear the variable by calling an internal C function.

readonly mySite
gdb -n <<EOF >>/dev/null 2>&1
attach $$
call unbind_variable("mySite")

You should never have this in production. I have it in my .bashrc. 😉

  • Doesn't seem to work in shell. How can I make this work with sh? Feb 1, 2022 at 9:37

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