This question already has an answer here:

When there are same-name builtin, keyword and/or external command, what is the order in which the Bash shell decides which to run?

For example,

  • keyword time and external command time,
  • builtin printf and external command printf from coreutils.

marked as duplicate by Gilles bash Apr 13 '16 at 22:25

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.


From the GNU Bash Reference Manual:

After a command has been split into words, if it results in a simple command and an optional list of arguments, the following actions are taken.

  1. If the command name contains no slashes, the shell attempts to locate it. If there exists a shell function by that name, that function is invoked as described in Shell Functions.

  2. If the name does not match a function, the shell searches for it in the list of shell builtins. If a match is found, that builtin is invoked.

  3. If the name is neither a shell function nor a builtin, and contains no slashes, Bash searches each element of $PATH for a directory containing an executable file by that name. Bash uses a hash table to remember the full pathnames of executable files to avoid multiple PATH searches (see the description of hash in Bourne Shell Builtins). A full search of the directories in $PATH is performed only if the command is not found in the hash table. If the search is unsuccessful, the shell searches for a defined shell function named command_not_found_handle. If that function exists, it is invoked with the original command and the original command’s arguments as its arguments, and the function’s exit status becomes the exit status of the shell. If that function is not defined, the shell prints an error message and returns an exit status of 127.

  4. If the search is successful, or if the command name contains one or more slashes, the shell executes the named program in a separate execution environment. Argument 0 is set to the name given, and the remaining arguments to the command are set to the arguments supplied, if any.

  5. If this execution fails because the file is not in executable format, and the file is not a directory, it is assumed to be a shell script and the shell executes it as described in Shell Scripts.

  6. If the command was not begun asynchronously, the shell waits for the command to complete and collects its exit status.


In case of name collisions bash will try to call builtin command first. I made the following test.

time sleep 100 &
ps -ef | grep [t]est

External command should create new process but you'll see that there was no result. This means that builtin command was called.

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