I've seen this comment many times on Unix & Linux as well as on other sites that use the phrasing "backticks have been deprecated", with respect to shells such as Bash & Zsh.

Is this statement true or false?

  • See Why didn't back quotes in a shell script help me cd to a directory for an example of why $(...) notation is easier to use than nested back-quotes. Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 0:52
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    punch line here Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 12:27
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    At least one Unix, AIX, has documented that backticks are obsolete. "Although the backquote syntax is accepted by ksh, it is considered obsolete by the X/Open Portability Guide Issue 4 and POSIX standards. These standards recommend that portable applications use the $(command) syntax." ibm.com/support/knowledgecenter/ssw_aix_71/com.ibm.aix.osdevice/… Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 19:52
  • I have a definite difference in "GNU bash, version 3.2.57(1)-release (x86_64-apple-darwin14)" on mac 10.10: matchingLines=$( grep -n '\$-PARAMETER' ... | ... ) works, matchingLines= backtick the same stuff backtick doesn't work -- seems to lose the backslash in backslash-dollar. (It's not my script ...)
    – denis
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 12:21
  • @denis ...and you cannot use backticks in these kind of comments ;-)
    – Polluks
    Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 23:20

3 Answers 3


There are two different meanings of "deprecated."

be deprecated: (chiefly of a software feature) be usable but regarded as obsolete and best avoided, typically due to having been superseded.

—New Oxford American Dictionary

By this definition backticks are deprecated.

Deprecated status may also indicate the feature will be removed in the future.


By this definition backticks are not deprecated.

Still supported:

Citing the Open Group Specification on Shell Command Languages, specifically section 2.6.3 Command Substitution, it can be seen that both forms of command substitution, backticks (`..cmd..`) or dollar parens ($(..cmd..)) are still supported insofar as the specification goes.

Command substitution allows the output of a command to be substituted in place of the command name itself. Command substitution shall occur when the command is enclosed as follows:


or (backquoted version):


The shell shall expand the command substitution by executing command in a subshell environment (see Shell Execution Environment) and replacing the command substitution (the text of command plus the enclosing $() or backquotes) with the standard output of the command, removing sequences of one or more <newline> characters at the end of the substitution. Embedded <newline> characters before the end of the output shall not be removed; however, they may be treated as field delimiters and eliminated during field splitting, depending on the value of IFS and quoting that is in effect. If the output contains any null bytes, the behavior is unspecified.

Within the backquoted style of command substitution, <backslash> shall retain its literal meaning, except when followed by: '$', '`', or <backslash>. The search for the matching backquote shall be satisfied by the first unquoted non-escaped backquote; during this search, if a non-escaped backquote is encountered within a shell comment, a here-document, an embedded command substitution of the $(command) form, or a quoted string, undefined results occur. A single-quoted or double-quoted string that begins, but does not end, within the "`...`" sequence produces undefined results.

With the $(command) form, all characters following the open parenthesis to the matching closing parenthesis constitute the command. Any valid shell script can be used for command, except a script consisting solely of re-directions which produces unspecified results.

So then why does everyone say that backticks have been deprecated?

Because most of the use cases should be making use of the dollar parens form instead of backticks. (Deprecated in the first sense above.) Many of the most reputable sites (including U&L) often state this as well, throughout, so it's sound advice. This advice should not be confused with some non-existent plan to remove support for backticks from shells.

  • BashFAQ #082 - Why is $(...) preferred over `...` (backticks)?

    `...` is the legacy syntax required by only the very oldest of non-POSIX-compatible bourne-shells. There are several reasons to always prefer the $(...) syntax:


  • Bash Hackers Wiki - Obsolete and deprecated syntax

    This is the older Bourne-compatible form of the command substitution. Both the `COMMANDS` and $(COMMANDS) syntaxes are specified by POSIX, but the latter is greatly preferred, though the former is unfortunately still very prevalent in scripts. New-style command substitutions are widely implemented by every modern shell (and then some). The only reason for using backticks is for compatibility with a real Bourne shell (like Heirloom). Backtick command substitutions require special escaping when nested, and examples found in the wild are improperly quoted more often than not. See: Why is $(...) preferred over `...` (backticks)?.

  • POSIX standard rationale

    Because of these inconsistent behaviors, the backquoted variety of command substitution is not recommended for new applications that nest command substitutions or attempt to embed complex scripts.

NOTE: This third excerpt (above) goes on to show several situations where backticks simply won't work, but the newer dollar parens method does, beginning with the following paragraph:

Additionally, the backquoted syntax has historical restrictions on the contents of the embedded command. While the newer "$()" form can process any kind of valid embedded script, the backquoted form cannot handle some valid scripts that include backquotes.

If you continue reading that section the failures are highlighted showing how they would fail using backticks, but do work using the newer dollar parens notation.


So it's preferable that you use dollar parens instead of backticks but you aren't actually using something that's been technically "deprecated" as in "this will stop working entirely at some planned point."

After reading all this you should have the take away that you're strongly encouraged to use dollar parens unless you specifically require compatibility with a real original non-POSIX Bourne shell.

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    By most of the meanings of deprecated, I (and you) would say that backticks are deprecated. It's mostly a terminology question. Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 15:54
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    @StephaneChazelas - Agreed! I will continue to tell ppl that they're deprecated but backticks have not been officially "deprecated" in the sense that they're going to be actively removed from the code base of any shell in the near future. At least none that I'm aware of.
    – slm
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 16:00
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    My interpretation is that backquotes are supported purely because they are too entrenched in existing code to formally deprecate. I have never heard an argument for continuing to use them in new code.
    – chepner
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 16:08
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    @slm Yeah, I guess you did get it - I got pulled away and didn't notice. There's almost no reason to use these things, except that it can be just a little cleaner when layering subshells so $( cmd `cmd`) is just a little less messy than $( cmd $(cmd)) - it's easier to read. I've just always considered a deprecated feature in software to be one officially marked for removal by upstream - and I've never heard of anything like that. I don't care - have no love for the grave.
    – mikeserv
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 18:27
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    You may want to add the following quote from the POSIX standard rationale: Because of these inconsistent behaviors, the backquoted variety of command substitution is not recommended for new applications that nest command substitutions or attempt to embed complex scripts. While this is not a formal deprecation since the rationale section is informative and not normative, it does suggest that continued use of backticks should be avoided.
    – jw013
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 21:53

It's not deprecated, but the backticks (`...`) is the legacy syntax required by only the very oldest of non-POSIX-compatible bourne-shells and $(...) is POSIX and more preferred for several reasons:

  • Backslashes (\) inside backticks are handled in a non-obvious manner:

    $ echo "`echo \\a`" "$(echo \\a)"
    a \a
    $ echo "`echo \\\\a`" "$(echo \\\\a)"
    \a \\a
    # Note that this is true for *single quotes* too!
    $ foo=`echo '\\'`; bar=$(echo '\\'); echo "foo is $foo, bar is $bar" 
    foo is \, bar is \\
  • Nested quoting inside $() is far more convenient:

    echo "x is $(sed ... <<<"$y")"

    instead of:

    echo "x is `sed ... <<<\"$y\"`"

    or writing something like:

    IPs_inna_string=`awk "/\`cat /etc/myname\`/"'{print $1}' /etc/hosts`

    because $() uses an entirely new context for quoting

    which is not portable as Bourne and Korn shells would require these backslashes, while Bash and dash don't.

  • Syntax for nesting command substitutions is easier:

    x=$(grep "$(dirname "$path")" file)


    x=`grep "\`dirname \"$path\"\`" file`

    because $() enforces an entirely new context for quoting, so each command substitution is protected and can be treated on its own without special concern over quoting and escaping. When using backticks, it gets uglier and uglier after two and above levels.

    Few more examples:

    echo `echo `ls``      # INCORRECT
    echo `echo \`ls\``    # CORRECT
    echo $(echo $(ls))    # CORRECT
  • It solves a problem of inconsistent behavior when using backquotes:

    • echo '\$x' outputs \$x
    • echo `echo '\$x'` outputs $x
    • echo $(echo '\$x') outputs \$x
  • Backticks syntax has historical restrictions on the contents of the embedded command and cannot handle some valid scripts that include backquotes, while the newer $() form can process any kind of valid embedded script.

    For example, these otherwise valid embedded scripts do not work in the left column, but do work on the rightIEEE:

    echo `                         echo $(
    cat <<\eof                     cat <<\eof
    a here-doc with `              a here-doc with )
    eof                            eof
    `                              )
    echo `                         echo $(
    echo abc # a comment with `    echo abc # a comment with )
    `                              )
    echo `                         echo $(
    echo '`'                       echo ')'
    `                              )

Therefore the syntax for $-prefixed command substitution should be the preferred method, because it is visually clear with clean syntax (improves human and machine readability), it is nestable and intuitive, its inner parsing is separate, and it is also more consistent (with all other expansions that are parsed from within double-quotes) where backticks are the only exception and ` character is easily camouflaged when adjacent to " making it even more difficult to read, especially with small or unusual fonts.

Source: Why is $(...) preferred over `...` (backticks)? at BashFAQ

See also:


As a note, your title is a little misleading and different from your question, so let's also answer the question in your title (and in no way disagree with the correct answers regarding just the sh/bash variants).

Your question text specifically refers to bash/zsh, but your title asks about *sh shells. Talking about *sh shells is a much broader question, and canonically includes shells like csh and tcsh which are still heavily used.

And yes, I know many people hate tcsh, and they often give all sorts of reasons why you shouldn't use tcsh as a scripting language (which I agree with) and ignore the possibility of simply using it as an interactive shell. (Frankly I'm not sure why you're using any *sh as a programming language anyways... but let's move on).

In csh/tcsh, the backticks are definitely NOT deprecated, in part because they do NOT support $().

So we know that backticks are "deprecated" from bash variants in the sense that they are not recommended, but NOT in the sense that will be removed soon (or probably ever, for that matter). And we also know that backticks are supported on csh/tcsh.

One could make a decent argument, then, that when answering questions on sites like stackexchange, one should actually use backticks for simple examples that don't involve any complicated quoting that would prefer the $() solution. This way the answers are more portable, instead of only directly solving the answer for bash users, and confusing less advanced users who may be on a different shell and may not know about the $() bourne syntax.

As a side note and another common issue, one can more portably give examples that export environment variables to commands, instead of:

% VAR=value some_command arg1 arg2 ...

Which only works on sh/bash variants, one can simply do:

% env VAR=value some_command arg1 arg2 ...

And magically your answer now works on most shells.

Global answers on sites like stackexchange should generally be written to solve the problem for as many users with as little confusion as possible, as opposed to taking a stance on which shells one should use.

I realize that this is all a bit tangential to your original (and admittedly older) question, but the problem is that the answers to this question is being referenced to suggest that people should use $() in stackexchange answers, so a footnote was probably worth bringing up.

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