Suppose I wish to read about wait syscall. Typing man wait would only give the manual entry for wait as in shell, not in syscall. However if I type man waitpid, I would get the manual entry for wait as they are inside the same page.

How do I specify which manual entry is desired in a case like this?

2 Answers 2


You can specify the section as the first argument to man:

man wait
man 1 wait

These will open the BSD General Commands Manual for wait

man 2 wait

This will open the BSD System Calls Manual for wait

That's why you often see the number in parens after the command, e.g. wait (1) and wait (2).

Note: I tested this in FreeBSD but it should be the same on MacOSX or pretty much any POSIX OS, like Linux, Solaris etc.


When you type man waitpid, notice how in the upper left (and right) corners, you see e.g. "wait(2)". That "(2)" indicates the man page section, and this is what you'd use, e.g.:

$ man 2 wait

By specifying the section you want man to search first, you can by-pass things like shell documentation. Wikipedia talks more about the various man page sections here.

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