I have a bash script file, which is put under some directory added to $PATH so that I can call the script from any directory.

There is another text file under the same directory as the script. I wonder how to refer to the text file in the script?

For example, if the script is just to output the content of the text file, cat textfile won't work, since when calling the script from a different directory, the text file is not found.


7 Answers 7


These should work the same, as long as there are no symlinks (in the path expansion or the script itself):

  • MYDIR="$(dirname "$(realpath "$0")")"

  • MYDIR="$(dirname "$(which "$0")")"

  • A two step version of any of the above:

    MYSELF="$(realpath "$0")"


If there is a symlink on the way to your script, then which will provide an answer not including resolution of that link. If realpath is not installed by default on your system, you can find it here.

[EDIT]: As it seems that realpath has no advantage over readlink -f suggested by Caleb, it is probably better to use the latter. My timing tests indicate it is actually faster.

  • No problem. By the way where does realpath come from on your system. (For others that don't have it you can use readlink -f
    – Caleb
    Commented Aug 1, 2011 at 10:27
  • @Caleb Actually I thought it belonged to the set of standard GNU utilities (coreutils), but I can see now it is a separate package. Commented Aug 1, 2011 at 10:48
  • @rozcietrzewiacz realpath dates back from before readlink -f (and even readlink, IIRC) was in GNU coreutils (there were several similar tools around. readlink -f eventually became the de facto standard); realpath is only kept for compatibility with scripts that still use it. Commented Aug 1, 2011 at 21:38
  • Whats the advantage of $(dirname "$(which "$0")") over $(dirname $0) where the which is no longer present? Isn't it the same?
    – UlfR
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 8:34
  • 2
    readlink -f does not seem to work on Mac OS X 10.11.6, but realpath works out of the box.
    – Grav
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 12:28

My systems do not have realpath as suggested by rozcietrzewiacz.

You can accomplish this using the readlink command. The advantage of using this over parsing which or other solutions is that even if a part of the path or the filename executed was a symlink, you would be able to find the directory where the actual file was.

MYDIR="$(dirname "$(readlink -f "$0")")"

Your text file could then be read into a variable like this:

  • @rozcietrzewiacz: I actually wasn't refering to just your which suggestion. The normal solution for this involves either just dirname or a combination of cd and pwd in a subshell. Readlink has the advantage here. realpath seems to pretty much be just a wrapper for readlink -f anyway.
    – Caleb
    Commented Aug 1, 2011 at 11:07
  • I don't know how realpath is different from readlink -f. I can only see it gives me the same results (as opposed to which). Commented Aug 1, 2011 at 11:21
  • Keep in mind that readlink -f (from GNU coreutils) does NOT require the last element of the path to exist, readlink -e does, but isn't supported by busybox readlink, which mimics the behavior of -e in their -f option.
    – dragon788
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 20:33

$0 in the script will be the full path to the script, and dirname will take a full path and give you just the directory, so you can do this to cat textfile:

$ cat "$(dirname -- "$0")/textfile"
  • While this seems to work without realpath $0, you are wrong in saying that "$0 in the script will be the full path to the script". Commented Jul 31, 2011 at 0:28
  • @roz In what way? Commented Jul 31, 2011 at 0:38
  • 1
    $0 is the command as it was run, which can be e.g. ../script.sh. Commented Jul 31, 2011 at 0:43
  • So, actually $(dirname "$0") returns the relative path to the script, as part of the invoked command - not the absolute path. This can lead to problems in scripts that change directories while running. Commented Jul 31, 2011 at 1:03
  • @roz Ah, interesting. So I guess it wouldn't cause a problem here since he's calling something on the path by name, but it would break other things. Thanks Commented Jul 31, 2011 at 1:09

You can put this at the top of your script:

cd "${BASH_SOURCE%/*}" || exit

The BASH_SOURCE internal bash variable is actually an array of pathnames. If you expand it as a simple string, e.g. "$BASH_SOURCE", you'll get the first element, which is the pathname of the currently executing function or script.

Source: http://mywiki.wooledge.org/BashFAQ/028


I was trying these and realpath didn't work for me. The solution I went with is:

SCRIPTDIR=$( cd "$( dirname "${BASH_SOURCE[0]}" )" && pwd )

Which has worked well so far. I would like to know if there are any potential issues with the approach.

  • 1
    Good, but does not follow symlinks. Try this: SCRIPT_DIR="$( cd "$(dirname "$( readlink -f ${BASH_SOURCE[0]} )")" >/dev/null 2>&1 && pwd)"
    – OronNavon
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 11:06

I use:

#! /bin/sh -
dir=$(cd -P -- "$(dirname -- "$0")" && pwd -P) || exit
dosomethingwith "${dir%/}/some-file"

Which is POSIX and should work as long as the dirname of $0 doesn't end in newline characters, is not - and $CDPATH is not set (and possibly a few other corner cases if the script was not looked-up in $PATH).


I always use which to find the full path of an executable from the PATH. For instance:

which python

If you combine this with the dirname command then you get:

wp=`which python`
dn=`dirname $wp`
ls $dn

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