I stuck with an strange behaviour of readarray command.

The man bash states:

     Read lines from the standard input into the indexed array variable array

but these scripts don't work (array is empty):

unset arr; (echo a; echo b; echo c) | readarray arr; echo ${#arr[@]}
unset arr; cat /etc/passwd | readarray arr;  echo ${#arr[@]}

And these work:

unset arr; readarray arr < /etc/passwd ;  echo ${#arr[@]}
unset arr; mkfifo /tmp/fifo; (echo a; echo b; echo c) > /tmp/fifo & mapfile arr < /tmp/fifo ; echo ${#arr[@]}

What wrong with pipe?


3 Answers 3


To ensure the readarray command executes in the current shell, either use process substitution in place of the pipeline:

readarray -t arr < <( echo a; echo b; echo c )

or (if bash 4.2 or later) use the lastpipe shell option:

shopt -s lastpipe
( echo a; echo b; echo c ) | readarray -t arr

Note that this second method using lastpipe will not work by default in an interactive session. In that case, first run

set +m

to disable "monitor mode".

  • 3
    Cool. This works, but what exactly is process substitution? And what does it mean to have < < 2 arrows? Jul 1, 2014 at 2:15
  • 6
    See the bash man page. In short, it's syntax for treating a pipeline as a file descriptor. < <(...) means to redirect input (the first <) from the output of the command inside <(...). Similary, > >(...) would pass standard output to the standard input of the pipeline inside >(...). You don't necessarily need to use redirection with process substitution. cat <( echo a b c ) works as well.
    – chepner
    Jul 1, 2014 at 14:40
  • Both of these options produce an undesirable result for me, where each array item retains the line endings at the end of each string. Whereas the answer by smac89 does not have this problem.
    – thnee
    Feb 1, 2019 at 16:13
  • 1
    Line endings can be stripped using readarray -t arr. From man bash: -t Remove a trailing newline from each line read.
    – JK Laiho
    Jan 28, 2020 at 11:10
  • 1
    @BrandonMiller, this is due to monitor mode and can be disabled with set +m. It is on by default in interactive sessions, but not in scripts.
    – Stanley Yu
    Feb 20, 2022 at 22:45

Maybe try:

unset arr
printf %s\\n a b c | {
    readarray arr
    echo ${#arr[@]}

I expect it will work, but the moment you step out of that last { shell ; } context at the end of the |pipeline there you'll lose your variable value. This is because each of the |separate | processes within a |pipeline is executed in a (subshell). So your thing doesn't work for the same reason:

( arr=( a b c ) ) ; echo ${arr[@]}

...doesn't - the variable value was set in a different shell process than the one in which you call on it.


readarray can also read from stdin, so:

readarray arr <<< "$(echo a; echo b; echo c)"; echo ${#arr[@]}

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