I want to get just the name of the parent directory for a file.

Example: When I have path=/a/b/c/d/file, I want only d and not /a/b/c/d (which I get from dirname $path) as output.

Is there any sophisticated way to do this?


It sounds like you want the basename of the dirname:

$ filepath=/a/b/c/d/file
$ parentname="$(basename "$(dirname "$filepath")")"
$ echo "$parentname"
  • why am I receiving . instead of the parent directory on debian?
    – Amir
    Nov 10 '15 at 10:17
  • @Amir: Are you starting with a full path, or just a filename? If it's just a filename, the dirname command will assume it's in the current directory (aka "."). Nov 10 '15 at 15:09
  • well, I am using this: parentname="$(basename "$(dirname "$pwd")")"
    – Amir
    Nov 10 '15 at 15:33
  • 1
    @Amir: Shell variables are case sensitive, and PWD must be capitalized. Try parentname="$(basename "$(dirname "$PWD")")". Nov 10 '15 at 17:31

You can use pwd to get the current working directory, and use parameter expansion to avoid forking it into another (sub)shell.

echo ${PWD##*/}

Edit: proven source

  • The question has nothing to do with the current directory. You could use ${path##*/}
    – Matteo
    Jan 20 '13 at 9:22

I think this is a less-resource solution:

 $ filepath=/a/b/c/d/file
 $ echo ${${filepath%/*}##*/}

edit: Sorry, nested expansion isn't possible in bash, but it works in zsh. Bash-version:

 $ filepath=/a/b/c/d/file
 $ path=${filepath%/*}
 $ echo ${path##*/}
  • There are some edge cases this doesn't handle well, mainly when there isn't a full multilevel path. For example, try it with filepath=file or filepath=/file`. Jan 20 '13 at 22:31
  • Indeed. But what is the parent directory of foofile? If it isn't full path can't know (maybe if foofile is an existing file not only a "string").
    – uzsolt
    Jan 21 '13 at 8:54

In bash, in one line:

$ dirname /a/b/c/d/file | sed 's,^\(.*/\)\?\([^/]*\),\2,'
  • 3
    can you please elaborate the procedures involved? it can be of help to future readers. also, please try not to write 1/2 line answers. Apr 28 '13 at 19:18
  • dirname gets the directory in which file supposedly lives ( /a/b/c/d ). sed is used with its search/replace function as a "finder". , is the separator, the pattern we search for is ^\(.*/\)\?\([^/]*\) : ^ is the start of the string. Escaped parentheses surround the first capture group as \(.*/\) - a greedy search up to a / character, can include other /s with the 2nd capture group determining which /. Note that the use of , as a separator allows us to have the unescaped /. \? means zero or one of the first capture group. (useful, e.g. if d/file were passed in).... Jun 13 '20 at 15:33
  • The second capture group \([^/]*\) catches zero or more non-/ characters. This is useful if no parent were actually passed in, e.g. file. I would actually put a $ for the end of the string after that last parentheses, but what's there works. So, our search pattern was between the first and second , characters. In between the second and third (last) , characters we have the replacement, \2 meaning the second capturing group (second part inside escaped parentheses), i.e. everything after the last / from the result of dirname. Jun 13 '20 at 15:49
  • So, in the example given: result of dirname is /a/b/c/d. \(.*/\)\? gives /a/b/c/ (as \1, incidentally), which isn't included in the sed replacement - i.e. it gets cut away. \([^/]*\) captures d as \2. The replacement is \2, so the output is d. Jun 13 '20 at 15:53

I like Julian67's answer above best, but here is a bit an expanded version:

file_path = "a/b/c/d/file.txt"
parent=$(echo $file_path | sed -e 's;\/[^/]*$;;') # cut away "/file.txt";'$' is end of string
parent=$(echo $parent | sed -e 's;.*\/;;')  # cut away "/a/b/c/"
echo $parent # --> you get "d"
  • In case the script becomes a multiline solution, how can it be aliased to a command for cmder (where should one store it? what type of file?)
    – Artur
    Nov 28 '20 at 18:40

dirname and basename should be used for this task.

The short answer is

dirname /a/b/c/d/file | xargs basename
=> d

The first step, getting the dirname of the path, yields the path of the parent folder, as seen below.

dirname /a/b/c/d/file
=> /a/b/c/d

The path of the parent folder is then piped to another command with |. Since basename (and dirname) don't run on streams and instead just on parametized inputs, you cannot directly pipe the results to basename with | basename. This however is fixed by xargs, which turns the stream from the pipe into an input for basename

This allows the final solution to become

dirname /a/b/c/d/file | xargs basename

Which could also be written as ...

echo '/a/b/c/d/file' | xargs dirname | xargs basename

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