I have a list of numbers in a file, one per line. How can I get the minimum, maximum, median and average values? I want to use the results in a bash script.

Although my immediate situation is for integers, a solution for floating-point numbers would be useful down the line, but a simple integer method is fine.


23 Answers 23


With GNU datamash:

$ printf '%s\n' 1 2 4 | datamash max 1 min 1 mean 1 median 1
4   1   2.3333333333333 2
  • 4
    brew install datamash gives you a working version for macOS, if you have Hombrew installed. Mar 5, 2018 at 12:26
  • 1
    Note: the 1 in mean 1 specifies the fld, which "is the input field to use" i.e. it selects the i-th (counting from 1) column of input numbers in a matrix of numbers. Dec 31, 2021 at 20:57

You can use the R programming language.

Here is a quick and dirty R script:

#! /usr/bin/env Rscript
d<-scan("stdin", quiet=TRUE)
cat(min(d), max(d), median(d), mean(d), sep="\n")

Note the "stdin" in scan which is a special filename to read from standard input (that means from pipes or redirections).

Now you can redirect your data over stdin to the R script:

$ cat datafile
$ ./mmmm.r < datafile

Also works for floating points:

$ cat datafile2
$ ./mmmm.r < datafile2

If you don't want to write an R script file you can invoke a true one-liner (with linebreak only for readability) in the command line using Rscript:

$ Rscript -e 'd<-scan("stdin", quiet=TRUE)' \
          -e 'cat(min(d), max(d), median(d), mean(d), sep="\n")' < datafile

Read the fine R manuals at http://cran.r-project.org/manuals.html.

Unfortunately the full reference is only available in PDF. Another way to read the reference is by typing ?topicname in the prompt of an interactive R session.

For completeness: there is an R command which outputs all the values you want and more. Unfortunately in a human friendly format which is hard to parse programmatically.

> summary(c(1,2,4))
   Min. 1st Qu.  Median    Mean 3rd Qu.    Max. 
  1.000   1.500   2.000   2.333   3.000   4.000 
  • 1
    It looks interesting.. I'll have a closer look at it tomorrow.. Based on wikipedia's page, "R has become a de facto standard among statisticians"... well that's a significant accolade... I actaully tried to dowload it the other day (I kept seeing it mentioned), but I couldn't find it in the Ubuntu repo... I'll follow it up tomorrow...
    – Peter.O
    May 25, 2011 at 17:26
  • 11
    in the ubuntu (and debian?) repo the package is named r-base.
    – Lesmana
    May 25, 2011 at 17:44
  • 1
    thanks, I needed that name reference :) I didn't think of r- in the synaptic search field and it doesn't act on a lone character... I've tried it out now, and it looks ideal.. The R language is clearly the best for my requirement in this situation.. As per Gilles' answer, the Rscript interface to script files is most appropriate (vs. R, which is the interactive interface)... and R in the terminal makes for a handy calculator, or test environment (like python :)
    – Peter.O
    May 26, 2011 at 11:28
  • (+1) I love R. I can't recommend it enough.
    – Dason
    Apr 3, 2012 at 2:36
  • 9
    or just cat datafile | Rscript -e 'print(summary(scan("stdin")));'
    – shabbychef
    Aug 11, 2014 at 22:32

I actually keep a little awk program around to give the sum, data count, minimum datum, maximum datum, mean and median of a single column of numeric data (including negative numbers):

sort -n | awk '
    c = 0;
    sum = 0;
  $1 ~ /^(\-)?[0-9]*(\.[0-9]*)?$/ {
    a[c++] = $1;
    sum += $1;
  END {
    ave = sum / c;
    if( (c % 2) == 1 ) {
      median = a[ int(c/2) ];
    } else {
      median = ( a[c/2] + a[c/2-1] ) / 2;
    print sum, c, ave, median, a[0], a[c-1];

The above script reads from stdin, and prints tab-separated columns of output on a single line.

  • 1
    Aha! it's obvious (now that I've seen your awk script :) ... There is no need to keep checking for min and max when the array is sorted :) and that means that the NR==1 can go (a useless-use-of-if) along with the min/max checks, so all initializing can be located in the BEGIN section (good!)... Allowing for comments is a nice touch too.. Thanks, +1 ...
    – Peter.O
    May 26, 2011 at 2:28
  • Just a thought.. maybe allowing only numerics is better than disallowing comments (but that depends you your requirements)..
    – Peter.O
    May 26, 2011 at 6:21
  • 2
    Technically, awk will assume "new" variables are zero, so in this case the BEGIN{} section is unnecessary. I've fixed the wrapping (no need to escape the line breaks either). I also used OFS="\t" to clean up the print line and implemented @Peter.O's second comment. (Yes, my regex allows ., but as awk interprets that as 0, that's acceptable.)
    – Adam Katz
    Jan 15, 2015 at 21:22
  • 1
    @AdamKatz - these are great changes, but as it stands, I didn't write the program. My awk script is now substantially different. I almost feel like you should take credit for the above program, in order to give credit where credit is due.
    – user732
    Jan 15, 2015 at 22:31
  • 1
    I wrote a perl script called avg that does this and more, by the way.
    – Adam Katz
    Aug 1, 2018 at 17:20


jq -s min
awk 'NR==1||$0<x{x=$0}END{print x}'


jq -s max
awk 'NR==1||$0>x{x=$0}END{print x}'


jq -s 'sort|if length%2==1 then.[length/2|floor]else[.[length/2-1,length/2]]|add/2 end'
sort -n|awk '{a[NR]=$0}END{print(NR%2==1)?a[int(NR/2)+1]:(a[NR/2]+a[NR/2+1])/2}'


jq -s add/length
awk '{x+=$0}END{print x/NR}'

Combined to one command (modified from a comment):

$ seq 100|jq -s '{minimum:min,maximum:max,average:(add/length),median:(sort|if length%2==1 then.[length/2|floor]else[.[length/2-1,length/2]]|add/2 end)}'
  "minimum": 1,
  "maximum": 100,
  "average": 50.5,
  "median": 50.5

In jq, the -s (--slurp) option creates an array for the input lines after parsing each line as JSON, or as a number in this case.

Or with R (you can also use R -e instead of Rscript -e but it echoes the commands that it runs to STDOUT):

$ seq 100|Rscript -e 'summary(scan("stdin"))'
Read 100 items
   Min. 1st Qu.  Median    Mean 3rd Qu.    Max.
   1.00   25.75   50.50   50.50   75.25  100.00
$ seq 100|Rscript -e 'x=scan("stdin");sapply(c(min,max,mean,median),\(f)f(x))'
Read 100 items
[1]   1.0 100.0  50.5  50.5
$ seq 100|Rscript -e 'x=scan("stdin",quiet=T);writeLines(paste(sapply(c(min,max,mean,median),\(f)f(x)),collapse=" "))'
1 100 50.5 50.5
  • 4
    The jq solution is worthy of a special mention, since it's succinct, and re-purposes the tool in a non-obvious way. May 10, 2017 at 11:31
  • 2
    beautiful! wish i could give +2
    – RASG
    Jul 19, 2017 at 21:16
  • Extended a little: jq -s '{ min:min, max:max, sum:add, count:length, avg: (add/length), median: (sort | .[ length/2 ]) }' shows the output as an object with labels, pretty printed with colors!
    – Grynn
    Sep 24, 2020 at 20:14
  • 1
    @Grynn That's not right for median. For an odd list echo '[1,2,3]' | jq 'sort | .[length/2]' your code gives the answer 'null', and for an even list echo '[1,2,3,4]' | jq 'sort | .[length/2]' your code picks the third element '3' but it should give the answer 2.5, the mean of the middle two elements. Nov 12, 2020 at 18:14
  • @LucianWischik - Good point! Probably better to fix this is a public gist, rather than comment stream ... but jq 'sort | .[(length/2) | floor] would work for odd length lists? Cannot think of a very compact way to handle even lists
    – Grynn
    Nov 14, 2020 at 13:46

Min, max and average are pretty easy to get with awk:

% echo -e '6\n2\n4\n3\n1' | awk 'NR == 1 { max=$1; min=$1; sum=0 }
   { if ($1>max) max=$1; if ($1<min) min=$1; sum+=$1;}
   END {printf "Min: %d\tMax: %d\tAverage: %f\n", min, max, sum/NR}'
Min: 1  Max: 6  Average: 3,200000

Calculating median is a bit more tricky, since you need to sort numbers and store them all in memory for a while or read them twice (first time to count them, second - to get median value). Here is example which stores all numbers in memory:

% echo -e '6\n2\n4\n3\n1' | sort -n | awk '{arr[NR]=$1}
   END { if (NR%2==1) print arr[(NR+1)/2]; else print (arr[NR/2]+arr[NR/2+1])/2}' 
  • Thanks... your example is a good lead-in to awk, for me.. I've tweaked it a bit and put the two together (getting the feel of awk)... I've used awk's asort rather than the piped sort, and it seems to sort integers and decimals correctly.. Here is a link to my resulting version paste.ubuntu.com/612674 ... (And a note to Kim: I've been experimenting with awk for a couple of hours now. Working with a personal-interest example is way better for me)... A general note to readers: I'm still interested to see other methods. the more compact the better. I'll wait a while ...
    – Peter.O
    May 25, 2011 at 11:06

pythonpy works well for this sort of thing:

cat file.txt | py --ji -l 'min(l), max(l), numpy.median(l), numpy.mean(l)'

And a Perl one-(long)liner, including median:

cat numbers.txt \
| perl -M'List::Util qw(sum max min)' -MPOSIX -0777 -a -ne 'printf "%-7s : %d\n"x4, "Min", min(@F), "Max", max(@F), "Average", sum(@F)/@F,  "Median", sum( (sort {$a<=>$b} @F)[ int( $#F/2 ), ceil( $#F/2 ) ] )/2;'

The special options used are:

  • -0777 : read the whole file at once instead of line by line
  • -a : autosplit into the @F array

A more readable script version of the same thing would be :


use List::Util qw(sum max min);
use POSIX;


printf "%-7s : %d\n" x 4,
    "Min", min(@F),
    "Max", max(@F),
    "Average", sum(@F)/@F,
    "Median", sum( (sort {$a<=>$b} @F)[ int( $#F/2 ), ceil( $#F/2 ) ] )/2;

If you want decimals, replace %d with something like %.2f.

list=(`for n in $nums; do printf "%015.06f\n" $n; done | sort -n`); 
echo min ${list[0]}; 
echo max ${list[${#list[*]}-1]}; 
echo median ${list[${#list[*]}/2]};
  • echo file.txt does not looks quite right, maybe cat
    – malat
    Dec 17, 2013 at 14:14

Just for the sake of having a variety of options presented on this page, Here are two more ways:

1: octave

  • GNU Octave is a high-level interpreted language, primarily intended for numerical computations. It provides capabilities for the numerical solution of linear and nonlinear problems, and for performing other numerical experiments.

Here is a quick octave example.

octave -q --eval 'A=1:10;
  printf ("# %f\t%f\t%f\t%f\n", min(A), max(A), median(A), mean(A));'  
# 1.000000        10.000000       5.500000        5.500000

2: bash + single-purpose tools.

For bash to handle floating-point numbers, this script uses numprocess and numaverage from package num-utils.

PS. I've also had a reasonable look at bc, but for this particular job, it doesn't offer anything beyond what awk does. It is (as the 'c' in 'bc' states) a calculator—a calculator which requires a much programming as awk and this bash script...

arr=($(sort -n "LIST" |tee >(numaverage 2>/dev/null >stats.avg) ))
cnt=${#arr[@]}; ((cnt==0)) && { echo -e "0\t0\t0\t0\t0"; exit; }
if [[ ${cnt#${cnt%?}} == [02468] ]] 
   then med=$( echo -n "${arr[mid-1]}" |numprocess /+${arr[mid]},%2/ )
   else med=${arr[mid]}; 
fi     #  count   min       max           median        average
echo -ne "$cnt\t${arr[0]}\t${arr[cnt-1]}\t$med\t"; cat stats.avg 

Simple-r is the answer:

r summary file.txt
r -e 'min(d); max(d); median(d); mean(d)' file.txt

It uses R environment to simplify statistical analysis.


The num is a tiny awk wrapper which exactly does this and more, e.g.

$ echo "1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9" | num max
$ echo "1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9" | num min max median mean
..and so on

it saves you from reinventing the wheel in the ultra-portable awk. The docs are given above, and the direct link here (check also the GitHub page).


I'll second lesmana's choice of R and offer my first R program. It reads one number per line on standard input and writes four numbers (min, max, average, median) separated by spaces to standard output.

#!/usr/bin/env Rscript
a <- scan(file("stdin"), c(0), quiet=TRUE);
cat(min(a), max(a), mean(a), median(a), "\n");
  • Thanks for the "second" (it's reassuring)... your example was useful, as I didn't realize straight-off that R is the interactive interface, and Rscript drives the scripted files, which can be executable as per your example hash-bang, or invoked from within a bash script.. The scripts can handle commandline args (eg. stackoverflow.com/questions/2045706/… ) so it's looking good... Also R expressions can be used in bash via the -e ... but I do wonder how R compares to bc ...
    – Peter.O
    May 26, 2011 at 2:05

The below sort/awk tandem does it:

sort -n | awk '{a[i++]=$0;s+=$0}END{print a[0],a[i-1],(a[int(i/2)]+a[int((i-1)/2)])/2,s/i}'

(it calculates median as mean of the two central values if value count is even)


Taking cues from Bruce's code, here is a more efficient implementation which does not keep the whole data in memory.  As stated in the question, it assumes that the input file has (at most) one number per line.  It counts the lines in the input file that contain a qualifying number and passes the count to the awk command along with (preceding) the sorted data.  So, for example, if the file contains


then the input to awk is actually


Then the awk script captures the data count in the NR==1 code block and saves the middle value (or the two middle values, which are averaged to yield the median) when it sees them.


(awk 'BEGIN {c=0} $1 ~ /^[-0-9]*(\.[0-9]*)?$/ {c=c+1;} END {print c;}' "$FILENAME"; \
        sort -n "$FILENAME") | awk '
    c = 0
    sum = 0
    med1_loc = 0
    med2_loc = 0
    med1_val = 0
    med2_val = 0
    min = 0
    max = 0

  NR==1 {
    LINES = $1
    # We check whether numlines is even or odd so that we keep only
    # the locations in the array where the median might be.
    if (LINES%2==0) {med1_loc = LINES/2-1; med2_loc = med1_loc+1;}
    if (LINES%2!=0) {med1_loc = med2_loc = (LINES-1)/2;}

  $1 ~ /^[-0-9]*(\.[0-9]*)?$/  &&  NR!=1 {
    # setting min value
    if (c==0) {min = $1;}
    # middle two values in array
    if (c==med1_loc) {med1_val = $1;}
    if (c==med2_loc) {med2_val = $1;}
    sum += $1
    max = $1
  END {
    ave = sum / c
    median = (med1_val + med2_val ) / 2
    print "sum:" sum
    print "count:" c
    print "mean:" ave
    print "median:" median
    print "min:" min
    print "max:" max
  • Welcome to Unix & Linux!  Good job for a first post.  (1) While this may answer the question, it would be a better answer if you could explain how/why it does so.  The site’s standards have evolved over the past four years; while code-only answers were acceptable in 2011, we now prefer comprehensive answers that provide more explanation and context.  I’m not asking you to explain the entire script; just the parts that you changed (but if you want to explain the entire script, that’s OK too).  (BTW, I understand it fine; I’m asking on behalf of our less experienced users.)  … (Cont’d) Oct 10, 2015 at 6:18
  • (Cont’d) …  Please do not respond in comments; edit your answer to make it clearer and more complete.  (2) Fixing the script so that it does not need to hold the entire array in memory is a good improvement, but I’m not sure whether it’s appropriate to say that your version is “more efficient” when you have three unnecessary cat commands; see UUOC.  … (Cont’d) Oct 10, 2015 at 6:19
  • (Cont’d) …  (3) Your code is safe, since you set FILENAME and you know what you set it to, but, in general, you should always quote shell variables unless you have a good reason not to, and you’re sure you know what you’re doing.  (4) Both your answer and Bruce’s ignore negative input (i.e., numbers beginning with -); there is nothing in the question to suggest that this is correct or desired behavior.  Don’t feel bad; it’s been over four years, and, apparently, I’m the first person who noticed. Oct 10, 2015 at 6:20
  • Made edits as per suggestions. Didn,t knew about the overhead of cat command. Always used it to stream single files. Thanks for telling me about UUOC..... Oct 10, 2015 at 15:40
  • Good.  I eliminated the third cat and added to the explanation. Oct 10, 2015 at 17:10

With perl:

$ printf '%s\n' 1 2 4 |
   perl -MList::Util=min,max -MStatistics::Basic=mean,median -w -le '
     chomp(@l = <>); print for min(@l), max(@l), mean(@l), median(@l)'

With an R one-liner:

R -q -e 'summary(as.numeric(read.table("your_single_col_file")[,1]))'

For example, for my file, I got such output:

   Min. 1st Qu.  Median    Mean 3rd Qu.    Max.
  550.4   628.3   733.1   706.5   778.4   832.9

cat/python only solution - not empty-input proof!

cat data |  python3 -c "import fileinput as FI,statistics as STAT; i = [int(l) for l in FI.input()]; print('min:', min(i), ' max: ', max(i), ' avg: ', STAT.mean(i), ' median: ', STAT.median(i))"
  • The statistics module requires python version >= 3.4
    – Peter.O
    Sep 10, 2015 at 13:05
  • @Peter.O you are correct - is that a problem?
    – rav
    Sep 10, 2015 at 16:17
  • Its not a problem unless you don't have the appropriate python version. It just make it less portable.
    – Peter.O
    Sep 10, 2015 at 22:54
  • 2
    Why do you use int to convert the number. What if the number is float value? Besides, you need to strip the newline from the number in each line. The correct command is: cat data.log | python3 -c "import fileinput as FI,statistics as STAT; i = [float(l.strip()) for l in FI.input()]; print('min:', min(i), ' max: ', max(i), ' avg: ', STAT.mean(i), ' median: ', STAT.median(i))"
    – jdhao
    Jul 13, 2020 at 8:11
function median()
    declare -a nums=($(cat))
    printf '%s\n' "${nums[@]}" | sort -n | tail -n $((${#nums[@]} / 2 + 1)) | head -n 1
  • 1
    This answer would be useful if there was an explanation of how the above code answers the question, e.g., you should say that it's using Bash (not sh) as the interpreter. There's also a problem with how the data is read into the array from the file. Oct 9, 2017 at 19:19

Extending nisetama's answer:

oneliner with jq

jq -s '{ min:min, max:max, sum:add, count:length, avg: (add/length), median: (sort|.[(length/2|floor)])


echo 1 2 3 4 | jq -s '{ min:min, max:max, sum:add, count:length, avg: (add/length), median: (sort|.[(length/2|floor)]) }'

Gives you:

  "min": 1,
  "max": 5,
  "sum": 15,
  "count": 5,
  "avg": 3,
  "median": 3

Note: Median is not quite right when the # of items is even, but close enough IMHO.


If you're more interested in utility rather than being cool or clever, then perl is an easier choice than awk. By and large it will be on every *nix with consistent behaviour, and is easy and free to install on windows. I think it's also less cryptic than awk, and there will be some stats modules you could use if you wanted a halfway house between writing it yourself and something like R. My fairly untested (in fact I know it has bugs but it works for my purposes) perl script took about a minute to write, and I'd guess the only cryptic part would be the while(<>), which is the very useful shorthand, meaning take the file(s) passed as command line arguments, read a line at a time and put that line in the special variable $_. So you could put this in a file called count.pl and run it as perl count.pl myfile. Apart from that it should be painfully obvious what's going on.

$max = 0;
while (<>) {
 $sum = $sum + $_;
 $max = $_ if ($_ > $max);
print "$count numbers total=$sum max=$max mean=$avg\n";
  • 3
    You haven't shown the median
    – Peter.O
    Mar 28, 2012 at 14:31

I wrote a perl script called 'stats' that does this and more. (& you can subselect the bits you want with options like '--sum' '--median', etc'

$ ls -lR | grep $USER| scut -f=4 | stats 
Sum       1.22435e+08
Number    428
Mean      286064
Median    4135
Mode      0
NModes    4
Min       0
Max       8.47087e+07
Range     8.47087e+07
Variance  1.69384e+13
Std_Dev   4.11563e+06
SEM       198936
95% Conf  -103852 to 675979
          [for a normal distribution (ND) - see skew]
Quantiles (5)
        Index   Value
1       85      659
2       171     2196
3       256     11015
4       342     40210
Skew      20.3201
          [Skew=0 for a symmetric dist]
Std_Skew  171.621
Kurtosis  413.679
          [Kurtosis=3 for a ND]
PopKurt   0.975426
          [Pop'n Kurtosis is normalized to sample size; PK=0 for a ND]

It's bundled with scut (a perlish cut/join thingy) at: https://github.com/hjmangalam/scut


I got tired of scratching my head over the most convenient and efficient approach to gathering basic statistics. Many of the other answers here are reasonably elegant, but I thought it would be nice to have a simple command that's intuitive and flexible.

This is an early work-in-progress, but I'll be adding more functionality as time permits and need arises.



If your list of numbers is short, and you don't need the result programmatically, it's worth noting that sometimes the best move is to convert the column of numbers into an array:

tr '\n' ',' | awk '{printf("a = [%s]\n", $1)}'

Then paste this into your interpreter of choice, e.g., the Python interpreter, and you can calculate min/max/mean/median/mode/etc. as desired.

  • ... but if you are using awk anyway, you can just perform the calculations in the awk program.
    – AdminBee
    Jan 5 at 13:23

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