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I would like to delete the last character of a string, I tried this little script :

#! /bin/sh 

echo $t

but it prints "lkj", what I am doing wrong? Thank you in advance!

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11 Answers 11

up vote 46 down vote accepted

In a POSIX shell, the syntax ${t:-2} means something different - it expands to the value of t if t is set and non null, and otherwise to the value 2. To trim a single character by parameter expansion, the syntax you probably want is ${t%?}

Note that in ksh93, bash or zsh, ${t:(-2)} or ${t: -2} (note the space) are legal as a substring expansion but are probably not what you want, since they return the substring starting at a position 2 characters in from the end (i.e. it removes the first character i of the string ijk).

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Would you care to explain what is the magic behind '%?' ? – afraisse Apr 14 at 15:36
@afraisse ${parameter%word} removes the shortest suffix pattern matching word - see the Parameter Expansion section of man bash – steeldriver Apr 14 at 18:15

With bash 4.2 and above, you can do:



$ a=123
$ echo "${a::-1}"

Notice that for older bash ( for example, bash 3.2.5 on OS X), you should leave spaces between and after colons:

${var: : -1}
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This works for bash version 4.2-alpha and above, too bad the version I have access to is earlier. :-/ – h.j.k. Jul 14 '14 at 3:46
Notice that for older bash ( for example, bash 3.2.5 on OS X), you should leave spaces between and after colons ${var: : -1} – iamaziz May 8 at 5:37
@iamaziz: From bash changelog, the negative length in ${var:offset:lenght} was added only in bash 4.2. Maybe OSX add its own patch for bash. – cuonglm May 8 at 5:59
@cuonglm perhaps. I am on El Capitan and it only works if I either leave spaces, or explicitly put the start and end e.g. ${v:2:-1}. – iamaziz May 8 at 6:38
@iamaziz: How about ${v::(-1)} or ${v:: -1}? – cuonglm May 8 at 6:49

for removing the last n characters from a line that makes no use of sed OR awk:

> echo lkj | rev | cut -c (n+1)- | rev

so for example you can delete the last character one character using this:

> echo lkj | rev | cut -c 2- | rev

> lk

from rev manpage:

The rev utility copies the specified files to the standard output, reversing the order of characters in every line. If no files are speci- fied, the standard input is read.


if you don't know the length of the string, try:

$ x="lkj"
$ echo "${x%?}"
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Thank you for your response! The problem is that I don't know the size of the string, and are you sure that there isn't an easier way to do it? – user3581976 Jul 13 '14 at 13:53
see Updates @user3581976 – Networker Jul 13 '14 at 14:01
echo ${t:0:${#t}-1}

You get a substring from 0 to the string length -1. Note however that this substraction is bash specific, and won't work on other shells.

For instance, dash isn't able to parse even

echo ${t:0:$(expr ${#t} - 1)}

For example, on Ubuntu, /bin/sh is dash

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You can also use head to print out all but the last character.

$ s='i am a string'
$ news=$(echo -n $s | head -c -1)
$ echo $news
i am a strin

But unfortunately some versions of head do not include the leading - option. This is the case for the head that comes with OS X.

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Using sed it should be as fast as

sed 's/.$//'

Your single echo is then echo ljk | sed 's/.$//'.
Using this, the 1-line string could be any size.

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Note that in the general case, it doesn't delete the last character of the string, but the last character of every line of the string. – Stéphane Chazelas Feb 1 at 10:23

A few options depending on the shell:

  • POSIX: t=${t%?}
  • Bourne: t=expr " $t" : ' \(.*\).'
  • zsh/yash: t=${t[1,-2]}
  • bash/zsh: t=${t:0:-1}
  • ksh93/bash/zsh/mksh: t=${t:0:${#t}-1}
  • ksh93/bash/zsh/mksh: t=${t/%?}
  • ksh93: t=${t/~(E).$/}
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It is easy enough to do using regular expression:

echo "lkj" | sed "s/\(.*\).\{$n\}/\1/"
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Thank you SteelDriver and Networker!

if you don't know the length of the string, try:

$ x="lkj"
$ echo "${x%?}"
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Some refinements. To remove more than one character, you can add multiple question marks. For example, to remove the last two characters from the variable: $SRC_IP_MSG, you can use:

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In ksh:

echo ${ORACLE_SID/%?/}
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