Is there any easy way to pass (receive) named parameters to a shell script?

For example,

my_script -p_out '/some/path' -arg_1 '5'

And inside my_script.sh receive them as:

# I believe this notation does not work, but is there anything close to it?

printf "The Argument p_out is %s" "$p_out"
printf "The Argument arg_1 is %s" "$arg1"

Is this possible in Bash or Zsh?


The probably closest syntax to that is:

p_out='/some/path' arg_1='5' my_script
  • 7
    Related to this, if the -k option is set in the calling shell, then my_script p_out='/some/path' arg_1='5' has the same effect. (All arguments in the form of an assignment are added to the environment, not just those assignments preceding the command.) – chepner May 14 '14 at 22:55
  • 13
    I used to love this syntax, but it has a BIG caveat: after the command/function execution, those variables will still be defined in the current scope ! E.g.: x=42 echo $x; echo $x Which means in the next execution of my_script, if p_out is omitted, it will stick to the value passed the last time !! ('/some/path') – Lucas Cimon Sep 1 '15 at 9:13
  • @LucasCimon Can you not unset them after the first execution, reset them before the next execution? – Nikos Alexandris Dec 18 '17 at 15:46
  • 1
    @LucasCimon That is not correct. x=42 echo $x does not even output anything if $x was not defined before. – Hauke Laging Mar 22 '18 at 11:02
  • You're right @HaukeLaging, thanks for correcting that – Lucas Cimon Apr 19 '18 at 9:01

If you don't mind being limited to single-letter argument names i.e. my_script -p '/some/path' -a5, then in bash you could use the built-in getopts, e.g.


while getopts ":a:p:" opt; do
  case $opt in
    a) arg_1="$OPTARG"
    p) p_out="$OPTARG"
    \?) echo "Invalid option -$OPTARG" >&2

printf "Argument p_out is %s\n" "$p_out"
printf "Argument arg_1 is %s\n" "$arg_1"

Then you can do

$ ./my_script -p '/some/path' -a5
Argument p_out is /some/path
Argument arg_1 is 5

There is a helpful Small getopts tutorial or you can type help getopts at the shell prompt.

  • 24
    This should be the accepted answer – Kaushik Ghose May 21 '15 at 13:38
  • 3
    I know this is a bit old, but why only 1 letter for the arguments? – Kevin Apr 28 '17 at 15:54
  • 1
    I implemented this (but with i and d). When I run it with my_script -i asd -d asd I get an empty string for the d argument. When I run it my_script -d asd -i asd I get empty string for both arguments. – Milkncookiez Feb 14 '18 at 22:48
  • 2
    @Milkncookiez -- I had a similar problem -- I didn't include a ':' after the last argument (a 'w' in my case). Once I added the ':' it started working as expected – Derek May 24 '18 at 15:30

I stole this from drupal.org, but you could do something like this:

while [ $# -gt 0 ]; do
  case "$1" in
      printf "***************************\n"
      printf "* Error: Invalid argument.*\n"
      printf "***************************\n"
      exit 1

The only caveat is that you have to use the syntax my_script --p_out=/some/path --arg_1=5.

  • 7
    The caveat is not necessary. :) You can have the conditions as follows: -c|--condition) – Milkncookiez May 30 '17 at 14:27

I use this script and works like a charm:

for ARGUMENT in "$@"

    KEY=$(echo $ARGUMENT | cut -f1 -d=)
    VALUE=$(echo $ARGUMENT | cut -f2 -d=)   

    case "$KEY" in
            STEPS)              STEPS=${VALUE} ;;


echo "STEPS = $STEPS"


bash my_scripts.sh  STEPS="ABC" REPOSITORY_NAME="stackexchange"

Console result :

REPOSITORY_NAME = stackexchange

STEPS and REPOSITORY_NAME are ready to use in the script.

It does not matter what order the arguments are in.

  • 3
    This is neat and should be the accepted answer. – mmorin Feb 1 at 17:07

With zsh, you'd use zparseopts:

#! /bin/zsh -
zmodload zsh/zutil
zparseopts -A ARGUMENTS -p_out: -arg_1:


printf 'Argument p_out is "%s"\n' "$p_out"
printf 'Argument arg_1 is "%s"\n' "$arg_1"

But you'd call the script with myscript --p_out foo.

Note that zparseopts doesn't support abbreviating long options or the --p_out=foo syntax like GNU getopt(3) does.

  • Do you know why the zparseopts uses just one dash for the arguments whereas in the [] it is 2 dashes? Does not make sense! – Timo Nov 7 '17 at 14:59
  • @Timo, see info zsh zparseopts for details – Stéphane Chazelas Nov 7 '17 at 16:20

I just came up with this script

while [ $# -gt 0 ]; do

   if [[ $1 == *"--"* ]]; then
        declare $v="$2"


pass it like my_script --p_out /some/path --arg_1 5 and then in the script you can use $arg_1 and $p_out.

  • I like this solution in KSH88 I had to v=``echo ${1} | awk '{print substr($1,3)}'`` typeset $v="$2" (Remove one backtick each side) – hol Sep 24 '18 at 9:45

If a function or an application has more than zero arguments, it always has a last argument.

If you want to read option flag and value pairs, as in: $ ./t.sh -o output -i input -l last

And you want to accept a variable number of option/value pairs,

And do not want a huge "if .. then .. else .. fi" tree,

Then after checking for an argument count of non-zero and even,

Write a while loop with these four eval statements as the body, followed by a case statement using the two values determined in each pass through the loop.

The tricky part of the scripting is demonstrated here:


# For each pair - this chunk is hard coded for the last pair.
eval TMP="'$'$#"
eval "PICK=$TMP"
eval TMP="'$'$(($#-1))"
eval "OPT=$TMP"

# process as required - usually a case statement on $OPT
echo "$OPT \n $PICK"

# Then decrement the indices (as in third eval statement) 

:<< EoF_test
$ ./t.sh -o output -i input -l last
$ ./t.sh -o output -l last
$ ./t.sh  -l last
mitsos@redhat24$ my_script "a=1;b=mitsos;c=karamitsos"
eval "$1"

you've just injected command line parameters inside script scope !!

  • 3
    This doesn't work with the syntax the OP specified; they want -a 1 -b mitsos -c karamitsos – Michael Mrozek Feb 18 '15 at 14:48

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