I essentially have a for loop where the variable i that I am iterating with will take on each letter of the alphabet, for example. I want to use each value of i to create an array called "$i"array (for instance aarray, barray, carray, darray, etc) or even just called "$i" (so the arrays could be called a, b, c, d, etc.).

What kind of syntax could I use to make this happen?

I have tried:

for i in ${alphabet[@]}; do

and once I have my group of arrays, could I iterate through them by doing

for i in ${alphabet[@]}; do
  • Ouch, please don't. Use an associative array – glenn jackman Jan 16 '15 at 12:29

Can I offer other way (via associative array) to do your task? It seems more clever and acceptable:

declare -A array
for i in ${alphabet[@]}; do
  # or array[${i}0]=0 if you need 

So you can iterate through it by for i in ${!array[@]} or same wayfor i in ${alphabet[@]}

  • Or use a pseudo 2-dimensional array: array[$i,0]=1 – glenn jackman Jan 16 '15 at 12:28
  • @glennjackman By the way is there some advantage to use "pseudo 2-dimensional" array instead of ordinary associative one? – Costas Jan 16 '15 at 12:34
  • From the question, sounds like he wants an array-of-arrays. This can be implemented with my suggestion – glenn jackman Jan 16 '15 at 14:28
  • @glennjackman Sure. But is there difference between ${i},0 and ${i}0 or $i 0? How I understand any of variants just treated as string no matter with or without separator(s) inside? – Costas Jan 16 '15 at 14:44

You can use eval builtin to evaluate the variable name. An example that illustrates the point:

eval ${i}lphabet="abcde"
echo $alphabet

However, retrieving the value from ${i}lphabet requires another trick. You have to use the value of a variable as a variable name (essentially a pointer). The syntax would be:

#declare a variable that names the other variable:
#dereference the name with the ! syntax:
echo ${!pointer}

Applied to your case:

for i in ${alphabet[@]}; do
    eval ${pointer}[0]=0

However, this is a bad design... you should find a more conventional way of handling this.


You will have to use eval to use the contents of variables as variable names:

for i in ${alphabet[@]}; do
    eval "$i[0]=1"

eval takes its arguments and evaluates it in the context of the shell, i.e. not as a separate shell, attempts to do this without eval will result in separate shells being started and hence the variables set will not be available in the first shell.

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