I was running a Python script that malfunctioned and used sudo to create a file named >.

How can I get rid of this file?

Of course, when I try sudo rm >, I get the error bash: syntax error near unexpected token 'newline', because it thinks I'm trying to redirect the output of rm.

Its permissions are -rw-r--r--.

  • 10
    The answers are right, of course, but in general you might consider this: how was the file created in the first place? (Of course, sudo touch > at a shell would give the same error.) You said it was with a Python script, presumably created by passing ">" to some os function. So sudo python <<< 'import os; os.remove(">")' should work just fine. – wchargin May 30 '15 at 21:27
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    This reminded me of the one bug in windows where you literally couldn't delete a file with a certain name (but there was no problem making it.) – PyRulez May 30 '15 at 21:35
  • PyRulez ooh, which? – Austin Burk Jun 1 '15 at 1:00
  • 8
    Ironically, the answer is in the title you wrote yourself. – Raphael Jun 1 '15 at 10:20

Any of these should work:

sudo rm \>
sudo rm '>'
sudo rm ">"
sudo find . -name '>' -delete
sudo find . -name '>' -exec rm {} +

Note that the last two commands, those using find, will find all files or directories named > in the current folder and all its subfolders. To avoid that, use GNU find:

sudo find . -maxdepth 1 -name '>' -delete
sudo find . -maxdepth 1 -name '>' -exec rm {} +
  • 2
    It's probably worth pointing out that find is not like rm because it is recursive and will delete every file named rm under your current directory tree no matter how deep. – jw013 May 30 '15 at 15:31
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    @rahul The first three (the rm variants) are all the same. It's just three different ways of protecting that file name from the shell. There isn't really a reason to prefer one over another. – derobert May 30 '15 at 17:24
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    Why do you suggest find(1)? The only problem here is that a shell metacharacter needs to be quoted. There are a million-and-one different programs that can remove a file, but using anything other than rm(1) is just obfuscating the answer. – camh May 31 '15 at 6:15
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    You don't need GNU find to avoid recursing. sudo find . ! -name . -prune -name '>' -exec rm {} +. – hvd May 31 '15 at 20:25
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    I agree with @camh, find adds nothing for answering the question asked. – Paul Draper Jun 1 '15 at 5:38

You can also use Python to remove it:

python -c 'import os;os.remove(">")'

With POSIX find:

find . ! -name . -prune -type f -name '>' -exec rm -f {} +
  • 3
    Why bother? The shell provides plenty of ways to avoid interpreting > as output redirection. – alexis May 31 '15 at 14:36
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    @alexis imo it's best to know as many ways of accomplishing these simple tasks as possible. if op has another problem like this that's more difficult to solve purely with the shell, they'll have another tool in their toolbox to give it a try with – undergroundmonorail May 31 '15 at 22:07

What I ended up doing initially also works:

sudo sh -c "rm \>"

This is, of course, a variant on the simpler sudo rm \>.


I tried this as a comment but it came out all on one line

[Harry@localhost]~% touch ">"
[Harry@localhost]~% cat > ">"
line 1
line 2
[Harry@localhost]~% cat ">"
line 1
line 2
[Harry@localhost]~% ls -l ">"
-rw-r--r-- 1 Harry Harry 14 Jun  5 12:04 >
[Harry@localhost]~% rm ">"
[Harry@localhost]~% ls -l ">"
ls: cannot access >: No such file or directory
  • This is already in terdon's answer, though... – John WH Smith Jun 5 '15 at 11:18
  • Yes, it is partly given in tendon's answer, I agree, I just thought that this sequence is simple and made it explicit. As you'll see I tried to include it as a comment rather than an answer, but I don't know how to avoid it all coming out on one line. It also shows you don't need Python to create the file, another point also suggested in other comments. – Harry Weston Jun 5 '15 at 14:12

Quote the character so that it isn't interpreted by the shell as a redirection:

sudo rm '>'

However, if you have other files with weird characters, the safest method is to open a GUI file explorer such as nautilus and delete it there.

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