How can I check if a UTF-8 text file has a BOM from command line?

file command shows me:

UTF-8 Unicode text

But, I don't know if it means there is no BOM in the file.

I'm using Ubuntu 12.04.

  • Note that there is no BOM in UTF-8: that's a feature of UTF-16. An UTF-8 file may start with the U+FEFF character, but in that case it's a zero-width space. Dec 2, 2014 at 14:16

2 Answers 2


file will tell you if there is a BOM. You can simply test it with:

printf '\ufeff...\n' | file -
/dev/stdin: UTF-8 Unicode (with BOM) text

Some shells such as ash or dash have a printf builtin that does not support \u, in which case you need to use printf from the GNU coreutils, e.g. /usr/bin/printf.

Note: according to the file changelog, this feature existed already in 2007. So, this should work on any current machine.

  • 1
    Thanks for answer. My file version is file-5.09 and the result was /dev/stdin: ASCII text. Is it depends on version of file?
    – ironsand
    Dec 1, 2014 at 3:55
  • Thank you for that addition! I am using POSIX printf and completely missed that, sorry. Cheers. Feb 20 at 11:57
  • 1
    @LinuxSecurityFreak POSIX does not specify the \u escape sequence (at least, not yet). It specifies \ddd with a 3-digit octal number, so that a portable version could be: printf '\357\273\277...\n' | file - (but it is rather difficult to remember).
    – vinc17
    Feb 20 at 19:55

If you execute stat fileName it should give you exact the three characters. When I opened the file in the editor, I was unable to see anything. So noticing that the file size was 3 gave me clarity that it has a BOM.

Also, the post here was helful in my case.

hexdump -n 3 -C 2.txt
00000000 ef bb bf
ef bb bf // YES

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