How do I delete a folder that contains a file or folder with a specific name?

E.g. I want to delete all folders that contain the file "things.txt":


It would then delete dirB, dirD, and dirE -- not just the files inside.



A solution without piping somewhere else would be to pass the directory name to a subshell in find's exec function.

This will not be as efficient, and of course it'll try to remove directories that don't exist if they've already been deleted.

find . -depth -type f -name 'things.txt' -exec sh -c 'rm -rf "$(dirname $0)"' {} \;

If you want to use xargs, you could do it very simply like so. Note that dirname only takes one argument, so you have to specify -n 1 to have xargs only pass one:

find . -depth -type f -name 'things.txt' | xargs -n 1 dirname | uniq | xargs rm -rf

This will not be safe if your directory name contains a newline, so be aware of that.

  • Thanks for these! One issue: When I tested the second one, xargs -n 1 splits directory names with spaces in them, making it unusable. Is there a way to fix that? – MynockSpit Aug 28 '14 at 20:30
  • This worked with a few minor changes! Adding -print0 to the find and -0 to the xargs fixed the spaces issue, and since I decided I wanted to move everything to the trash and not delete it immediately, I ended up changing the xargs to xargs -0 -n 1 -I {} sh -c 'filename=$(dirname "{}"); mv "$filename" "./Trash";' Thanks a bunch! – MynockSpit Sep 20 '14 at 3:32

This has been tested on Linux as these commands below are also executable on Unix system.

find -type f -name 'things.txt' | xargs dirname | xargs rm -r


find -type f -name 'things.txt' --> search for file named 'things.txt' (file only, not directory)

| --> piping the result to next command

xargs dirname | --> grabbing the directory name the file is located in then pipe the result to next command

xargs rm -r --> proceed to remove all of these directories that has the file by name of 'things.txt'


  • When you pipe from find to xargs, please use find ... -print0 and xargs -0. – slhck Jul 31 '14 at 7:55
  • It have resulted as this: rm: cannont remove './DirD\n./DirB\n./DirE\n': No such file or directory. with -0, it is preventing bash from looping all files with sets of functions combined? – Faron Jul 31 '14 at 8:01
  • Actually, have you tested your command? It should return the error dirname: extra operand ... things.txt'`. – slhck Jul 31 '14 at 8:10
  • Then it must be because of different version of bash im using. Thank you for pointing that out. – Faron Jul 31 '14 at 8:13
  • You'd need to tell xargs to only pass one argument to dirname (see my answer). There could be different default behavior depending on your utility versions. OS X is a bit different than Linux in this regard. – slhck Jul 31 '14 at 8:31

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