I am using Ubuntu 8.10, Bash and I made a symbolic link with the following command:

ln -s ../test5

I want to remove it now but my rm fails:

rm -Rf test5/
rm: cannot remove `test5/`: Not a directory

rm test5/
rm: cannot remove directory `test5/`: Is a directory

rmdir test5/
rmdir: test5/: Not a directory

rm -r test5/
rm: cannot remove `test5/`: Not a directory

ls -l
 0 lrwxrwxrwx  1 peter peter    8 Jul 20 15:30 test5 -> ../test5/

How can I remove my symbolic link?

  • 5
    TIP: rm -r link/ deletes the content on the target Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 9:16

7 Answers 7


Remove the trailing slash:

With prompt:

$ rm test5

Without prompt:

$ rm -f test5

  • It says permission denied. Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 8:24
  • 3
    Without trailing slash. So test5/ is incorrect.
    – pylover
    Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 12:38

Try rm test5
(without the trailing slash).

The slash indicates that 'test5' is a directory whereas it's actually a file linking to a directory.


You can run removing the trailing slash:

$ rm test5

This will remove the file (i.e. the symlink).

Alternatively you may use unlink:

$ unlink test5

Again you must omit the trailing slash since you are attempting to unlink the symlink not the directory.


The issue in the OP is the trailing /, so test5/ throws an error but test5 works.

I prefer to use unlink rather than rm as my intention is clearer and there is no chance of mistakenly removing the real directory instead of the link. Make sure that there is no trailing / after the directory name, e.g.:

unlink test5

Sometimes if you use autocomplete to name the link that you want to delete you may not see a trailing slash but it's 'half there' and that invisible slash still gives the delete error when trying to remove that link.

So in that case type out character by character the link to be deleted as "test5" as eg. rm test5.

  • 1
    Never heard of invisible slash. What shell does this? Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 23:30
  • I think it's possibly a reference to the character being hidden by linewrap+cursor?
    – bertieb
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 23:48

There seems to be a problem with an empty directory with two symlinks. rmdir won't work in Kubuntu 20.10. It answers "directory not empty". rm says it's a directory.


I feel silly asking, but have you tried rm -r? Since it's a symbolic link it shouldn't delete the target.

Edit: Just tried it, it's correct

Edit 2: rmdir says in its first line of the man page it deletes empty directories. I would think because it's a link it had the directory bit checked on its file properties, but because rmdir doesn't suspect that being the case it spits errors. Just use rm -r

  • 2
    This will ask me to delete the files in the directory, that's not what I want, I want to delete only the link
    – Peter Smit
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 12:46
  • The asking was because interactive was defined in my .profile. Added the response to rm -r. It still doesn't work.
    – Peter Smit
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 12:50
  • You left the trailing '/' that's why it failed
    – bobby
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 12:52

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