There are two ways to define and use variables of integer type in Bash

  • declare -i a new variable
  • use a variable in an arithmetic expression, without declaring it.

My questions:

What are the differences between the variables created by the two ways? Especially differences in their purposes, and when to use which?

  • The former is locally scoped, the later is not.
    – jordanm
    Apr 23, 2016 at 21:45
  • thanks. can you explain the meaning of "locally scoped", maybe some examples?
    – Tim
    Apr 23, 2016 at 21:47

1 Answer 1


The fact the variable is typed gives it some properties a generic variable won't have:

f() {
  echo $v
  echo $v
  echo $v

declare -i v

will print


bash: 123a: value too great for base (error token is "123a")

If you are sure your variable will only contain integer values, typing it will give you some flexibility and error checking.

  • Thanks. (1) What are the definitions of "untyped" and "typed" variables in general sense for programming languages? Is an untyped variable defined as a variable whose type can be changed implicitly according to the context? For a typed variable, can we change its type, and if yes, do we have to do it explicitly (like type conversion in C or C++)? (2) Is a "dynamically typed" variable defined as a variable whose type is not changeable implicitly (i.e. the variable is typed), and is determined dynamically at run time?
    – Tim
    Apr 24, 2016 at 18:26
  • These are very broad and sometimes controversial questions. Have a look to blogs.perl.org/users/ovid/2010/08/… and
    – jlliagre
    Apr 24, 2016 at 20:38
  • Is there something after "and" ?
    – Tim
    Apr 24, 2016 at 21:07
  • stackoverflow.com/questions/36818633/…
    – Tim
    Apr 24, 2016 at 21:20
  • yes, "sometimes".... I guess I wanted to put another link after the second "and" but changed my mind.
    – jlliagre
    Apr 24, 2016 at 21:25

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