Attempting to shorten a bash script that uses curl to fetch multiple API calls takes something like this:

curl --user $USER:$PASS https://api.example.com/foo -o 'foo.json'
curl --user $USER:$PASS https://api.example.com/bar -o 'bar.json'
curl --user $USER:$PASS https://api.example.com/baz -o 'baz.json'

And use it in this form:

curl --user $USER:$PASS https://api.example.com/{foo,bar,baz} -o '#1.json'

The issue is that curl is fetching foo, bar and baz but is not assigning the output to foo.json, bar.json and baz.json. It is literally creating #1.json and piping output to stdout. Has been tried with single, double, and no quotes, all same result. This is being run inside a bash script, although the curl command behaves the same way when entered directly on the command line. Is this an OS X syntax issue?

  • 2
    What is it you think the #1 syntax is supposed to do? Where does that come from? Anyway you're almost certainly better off running three different curl invocations in a loop.
    – Celada
    Apr 17, 2016 at 21:10
  • 1
    The #1 syntax is described in the curl man page, if you're curious.
    – larsks
    Apr 17, 2016 at 21:11
  • @larsks yes I see it how, it's part of cURL's pesky built-in globbing. Thanks for educating both myself and the OP.
    – Celada
    Apr 17, 2016 at 21:25

1 Answer 1


Your problem is that the {...} expression is also valid shell syntax. For example, run:

echo file/{one,two}

And you get:

file/one file/two

So when you run:

curl --user $USER:$PASS https://api.example.com/{foo,bar,baz} -o '#1.json'

The {foo,bar,baz} is getting interpreted by your shell, and curl actually receives the command line:

  curl --user youruser:secret https://api.example.com/foo https://api.example.com/bar https://api.example.com/baz -o '#1.json'

Since curl doesn't see the {...} expression, you don't get the magical handling for #1. The solution is simply to enclose the URL in single quotes:

curl --user $USER:$PASS 'https://api.example.com/{foo,bar,baz}' -o '#1.json'

The single quotes inhibit any shell expansion of the string.

  • Wow, and here I was thinking this question was just based on a misunderstanding of how shell expansion works. Well done.
    – Wildcard
    Apr 17, 2016 at 21:27
  • Brilliant. Always a small detail that's overlooked causing confusing problems. Thanks.
    – Chase
    Apr 17, 2016 at 22:09
  • Thank you! Amazing explanation!
    – user5293
    Aug 24, 2019 at 0:56

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