I encountered this error when updating bash for the CVE-2014-6271 security issue:

# yum update bash
Running transaction (shutdown inhibited)
Updating   : bash-4.2.47-4.fc20.x86_64
/bin/sh: error importing function definition for `some-function'

2 Answers 2


[edited after 1st comment from: @chepner - thanks!]

/bin/bash allows hyphens in function names, /bin/sh (Bourne shell) does not. Here, the offending "some-function" had been exported by bash, and bash called yum which called /bin/sh which reported the error above.

fix: rename shell functions to not have hyphens

man bash says that bash identifiers may consist: "only of alphanumeric characters and underscores"

The /bin/sh error is much more explicit:

some-function () { :; }

sh: `some-function': not a valid identifier

  • Note that in bash, a hyphen is allowed in a function name, just not in a parameter name.
    – chepner
    Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 1:53
  • @chepner What about an underscore? Is an underscore allowed in a function name and parameter name?
    – Josh Pinto
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 10:38
  • On my system bash 4 allows function names to have hyphens but bash 3 does not — I assume on the OP's system /bin/sh is bash 3, and /bin/bash is bash 4
    – Mark Fox
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 7:08

Change/Fix the function name from "foo-bar" to "foo_bar"

It is the naming convention that bash is ok with, where as sh is not.

Replace the "-"(hyphen/dash/minus) with "_"(underscore), and the error gets fixed, and the code works on both bash and sh

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