Seq Bash Array Assignment

An array is a variable containing multiple values may be of same type or of different type.  There is no maximum limit to the size of an array, nor any requirement that member variables be indexed or assigned contiguously. Array index starts with zero.

In this article, let us review 15 various array operations in bash.

This article is part of the on-going Bash Tutorial series. For those who are new to bash scripting, get a jump-start from the Bash Scripting Introduction tutorial.

1. Declaring an Array and Assigning values

In bash, array is created automatically when a variable is used in the format like,

  • name is any name for an array
  • index could be any number or expression that must evaluate to a number greater than or equal to zero.You can declare an explicit array using declare -a arrayname.
$ cat #! /bin/bash Unix[0]='Debian' Unix[1]='Red hat' Unix[2]='Ubuntu' Unix[3]='Suse' echo ${Unix[1]} $./ Red hat

To access an element from an array use curly brackets like ${name[index]}.

2. Initializing an array during declaration

Instead of initializing an each element of an array separately, you can declare and initialize an array by specifying the list of elements (separated by white space) with in a curly braces.

Syntax: declare -a arrayname=(element1 element2 element3)

If the elements has the white space character, enclose it with in a quotes.

#! /bin/bash $cat declare -a Unix=('Debian' 'Red hat' 'Red hat' 'Suse' 'Fedora');

declare -a declares an array and all the elements in the parentheses are the elements of an array.

3. Print the Whole Bash Array

There are different ways to print the whole elements of the array. If the index number is @ or *, all members of an array are referenced. You can traverse through the array elements and print it, using looping statements in bash.

echo ${Unix[@]} # Add the above echo statement into the #./ Debian Red hat Ubuntu Suse

Referring to the content of a member variable of an array without providing an index number is the same as referring to the content of the first element, the one referenced with index number zero.

4. Length of the Bash Array

We can get the length of an array using the special parameter called $#.

${#arrayname[@]} gives you the length of the array.

$ cat declare -a Unix=('Debian' 'Red hat' 'Suse' 'Fedora'); echo ${#Unix[@]} #Number of elements in the array echo ${#Unix} #Number of characters in the first element of the array.i.e Debian $./ 4 6

5. Length of the nth Element in an Array

${#arrayname[n]} should give the length of the nth element in an array.

$cat #! /bin/bash Unix[0]='Debian' Unix[1]='Red hat' Unix[2]='Ubuntu' Unix[3]='Suse' echo ${#Unix[3]} # length of the element located at index 3 i.e Suse $./ 4

6. Extraction by offset and length for an array

The following example shows the way to extract 2 elements starting from the position 3 from an array called Unix.

$cat Unix=('Debian' 'Red hat' 'Ubuntu' 'Suse' 'Fedora' 'UTS' 'OpenLinux'); echo ${Unix[@]:3:2} $./ Suse Fedora

The above example returns the elements in the 3rd index and fourth index. Index always starts with zero.

7. Extraction with offset and length, for a particular element of an array

To extract only first four elements from an array element . For example, Ubuntu which is located at the second index of an array, you can use offset and length for a particular element of an array.

$cat #! /bin/bash Unix=('Debian' 'Red hat' 'Ubuntu' 'Suse' 'Fedora' 'UTS' 'OpenLinux'); echo ${Unix[2]:0:4} ./ Ubun

The above example extracts the first four characters from the 2nd indexed element of an array.

8. Search and Replace in an array elements

The following example, searches for Ubuntu in an array elements, and replace the same with the word ‘SCO Unix’.

$cat #!/bin/bash Unix=('Debian' 'Red hat' 'Ubuntu' 'Suse' 'Fedora' 'UTS' 'OpenLinux'); echo ${Unix[@]/Ubuntu/SCO Unix} $./ Debian Red hat SCO Unix Suse Fedora UTS OpenLinux

In this example, it replaces the element in the 2nd index ‘Ubuntu’ with ‘SCO Unix’. But this example will not permanently replace the array content.

9. Add an element to an existing Bash Array

The following example shows the way to add an element to the existing array.

$cat Unix=('Debian' 'Red hat' 'Ubuntu' 'Suse' 'Fedora' 'UTS' 'OpenLinux'); Unix=("${Unix[@]}" "AIX" "HP-UX") echo ${Unix[7]} $./ AIX

In the array called Unix, the elements ‘AIX’ and ‘HP-UX’ are added in 7th and 8th index respectively.

10. Remove an Element from an Array

unset is used to remove an element from an array.unset will have the same effect as assigning null to an element.

$cat #!/bin/bash Unix=('Debian' 'Red hat' 'Ubuntu' 'Suse' 'Fedora' 'UTS' 'OpenLinux'); unset Unix[3] echo ${Unix[3]}

The above script will just print null which is the value available in the 3rd index. The following example shows one of the way to remove an element completely from an array.

$ cat Unix=('Debian' 'Red hat' 'Ubuntu' 'Suse' 'Fedora' 'UTS' 'OpenLinux'); pos=3 Unix=(${Unix[@]:0:$pos} ${Unix[@]:$(($pos + 1))}) echo ${Unix[@]} $./ Debian Red hat Ubuntu Fedora UTS OpenLinux

In this example, ${Unix[@]:0:$pos} will give you 3 elements starting from 0th index i.e 0,1,2 and ${Unix[@]:4} will give the elements from 4th index to the last index. And merge both the above output. This is one of the workaround to remove an element from an array.

11. Remove Bash Array Elements using Patterns

In the search condition you can give the patterns, and stores the remaining element to an another array as shown below.

$ cat #!/bin/bash declare -a Unix=('Debian' 'Red hat' 'Ubuntu' 'Suse' 'Fedora'); declare -a patter=( ${Unix[@]/Red*/} ) echo ${patter[@]} $ ./ Debian Ubuntu Suse Fedora

The above example removes the elements which has the patter Red*.

12. Copying an Array

Expand the array elements and store that into a new array as shown below.

#!/bin/bash Unix=('Debian' 'Red hat' 'Ubuntu' 'Suse' 'Fedora' 'UTS' 'OpenLinux'); Linux=("${Unix[@]}") echo ${Linux[@]} $ ./ Debian Red hat Ubuntu Fedora UTS OpenLinux

13. Concatenation of two Bash Arrays

Expand the elements of the two arrays and assign it to the new array.

$cat #!/bin/bash Unix=('Debian' 'Red hat' 'Ubuntu' 'Suse' 'Fedora' 'UTS' 'OpenLinux'); Shell=('bash' 'csh' 'jsh' 'rsh' 'ksh' 'rc' 'tcsh'); UnixShell=("${Unix[@]}" "${Shell[@]}") echo ${UnixShell[@]} echo ${#UnixShell[@]} $ ./ Debian Red hat Ubuntu Suse Fedora UTS OpenLinux bash csh jsh rsh ksh rc tcsh 14

It prints the array which has the elements of the both the array ‘Unix’ and ‘Shell’, and number of elements of the new array is 14.

14. Deleting an Entire Array

unset is used to delete an entire array.

$cat #!/bin/bash Unix=('Debian' 'Red hat' 'Ubuntu' 'Suse' 'Fedora' 'UTS' 'OpenLinux'); Shell=('bash' 'csh' 'jsh' 'rsh' 'ksh' 'rc' 'tcsh'); UnixShell=("${Unix[@]}" "${Shell[@]}") unset UnixShell echo ${#UnixShell[@]} $ ./ 0

After unset an array, its length would be zero as shown above.

15. Load Content of a File into an Array

You can load the content of the file line by line into an array.

#Example file $ cat logfile Welcome to thegeekstuff Linux Unix $ cat #!/bin/bash filecontent=( `cat "logfile" `) for t in "${filecontent[@]}" do echo $t done echo "Read file content!" $ ./ Welcome to thegeekstuff Linux Unix Read file content!

In the above example, each index of an array element has printed through for loop.

Recommended Reading

Bash 101 Hacks, by Ramesh Natarajan. I spend most of my time on Linux environment. So, naturally I’m a huge fan of Bash command line and shell scripting. 15 years back, when I was working on different flavors of *nix, I used to write lot of code on C shell and Korn shell. Later years, when I started working on Linux as system administrator, I pretty much automated every possible task using Bash shell scripting. Based on my Bash experience, I’ve written Bash 101 Hacks eBook that contains 101 practical examples on both Bash command line and shell scripting. If you’ve been thinking about mastering Bash, do yourself a favor and read this book, which will help you take control of your Bash command line and shell scripting.

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Tagged as:Bash Array String, Bash Arrays, Bash Script Array, Bash Scripting Tutorial, Bash Tutorial, Echo Array, Linux Array, Unix Array

In the previous shell array post we discussed the declaration and dereferencing of arrays in shell scripts. This time we will take a look at the different ways of looping through an array.


This is the same setup as the previous post
Let’s make a shell script. In your favourite editor type

And save it somewhere as . Now we need to make it executable as follows:

Looks good so far.
Let’s declare some arrays:


In order to loop through any array, whether in shell scripting or any other language, I need to answer the following questions:

  1. How do I know where I am in the array?
  2. How do I know where the next element is?
  3. How do I know when I have gone through the whole array?

We will see how each method answers these questions:

Classic for loop

Let’s see how shell script does loops from the pages.

Looping through the array based on its length

The idea here is we find the length of the array and loop that many times through it starting from zero and adding one to the index each time. So it will look something like this:

It gives us:

Great. But what assumptions are we making.

Assumptions and limitations

These are our assumptions:

  1. The indices start from zero
  2. The indices are serial, i.e. the next index is always one higher than the one before

This limits us to arrays that fulfill these assumptions. For example if we try the above loop with instead we would get an empty line. The loop would execute once only because the array has one element at index 5, but the loop is looking for that element at index 0.

We need to find a better way.

Special Array for loop

gives us a special for loop for arrays:

Looping through the array using built in loop

Let’s give it a try:

It outputs the elements as last time. Notice that I can also add more than one array to be looped over after one another, for example:

would give me:


This way is very easy, but what if I want to know the index of the element. In that case I have a problem here because the index here is hidden. I have to use a slightly different method.

Looping through the array based on indices

This is the way with the least assumptions and limitations. We first get an array or list of indices of an array (we saw how to do that here), then loop over the indices and use the indices to access the array elements:


This last way is a lot messier than than the one before it, because the builtin array loop hides all that messiness. Something to note here is that we had to turn the indices in the last method into an array: so that we can dereference the elements, however the builtin array loop takes a string.

The builtin array loop loops through the string automatically based on the IFS:


  1. The man pages.
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