Merely curious about the etymology of the Windows environment variable %COMSPEC%. I understand it (usually) points to cmd.exe.

The best I could find online is Command Specifier, which sounds reasonable.

1 Answer 1


In regards to the etymology, it's self-referential. %COMSPEC% does stand for Command Specifier, and it "specifies" the command interpreter, which by default is cmd.exe in NT systems, and COMMAND.COM in DOS systems.

You can modify the variable to point to any secondary interpreter you want (this is a DOS example):


COMSPEC specifies the secondary command interpreter.
This need not be COMMAND.COM.
One example of a different command interpreter is JP Software's 4DOS.COM.


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