In htop, or other commands that show process status, all bash processes have in the command column


but one process has in the command column


What does it mean?

  • 5
    That's not specific to htop, that's specific to bash. It means it's a login shell. – jordanm Jun 30 '15 at 22:21
  • 4
    @jordanm Not specific to bash either, other shells do the same. – lcd047 Jun 30 '15 at 22:46

A minus sign before the command name is a convention that login programs use to start login shells. A login program is a program where you typically type your password and that starts a session for you, such as login, sudo -i, su -, sshd, etc. A login shell is the initial shell of a text mode session.

Conventionally, when a program invokes another program, it passes the program's name as argument 0; command line arguments are numbered starting from 1. For example, when you run cp foo bar, this executes the executable file located at /bin/cp (on typical systems), and passes cp as argument 0, foo as argument 1 and bar as argument 2. The normal convention is to use the base name of the executable as argument 0. When a login program invokes a shell, it violates this convention and puts an extra hyphen before the program name. Shells understand this alternate convention and set things up appropriately for a login shell, typically reading an initialization file such as ~/.profile, ~/.login, ~/.bash_profile, etc. depending on the shell.

See also Difference between Login Shell and Non-Login Shell?

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.