I have a bash script (called from a java program) that keeps getting killed. I always catch the signal 15 with trap but then some other signal comes along that I suspect is signal 9 but am in basically blind as to if it is really signal 9.

I know you can't trap signal 9, so is there any other way I can tell if signal 9 is killing my shell script?

  • 4
    What is running the shell script? That process should have access to the status of the child process via wait(2) or something.
    – thrig
    May 16, 2016 at 17:04
  • a java program that is running as a daemon started with upstart is running the shell script process
    – jgr208
    May 16, 2016 at 17:09
  • 1
    You could strace the program and look for a line that says "killed by SIGKILL" or do some auditd work with -a entry,always -F arch=b64 -S kill -k kill_signals
    – Bratchley
    May 16, 2016 at 18:11

1 Answer 1


The exit status of a killed command should be the signal number plus 128. So you can use the exit status to find out which signal killed you process.

I tested it like this on Linux in the shell:

print_exit_status_for_signal () {
    sleep 1000
    echo Exit staus $? = signal $(( $? - 128 ))
  ) &
  sleep 1
  killall "${1:+-$1}" sleep
print_exit_status_for_signal 15
print_exit_status_for_signal 9
print_exit_status_for_signal KILL
print_exit_status_for_signal TERM

EDIT: Note that a program can decide to exit with any¹ value (so you have to decide how far you trust the exit status to be the effect of a signal):

for i in $(seq 256); do
  sh -c "exit $i"
  echo Program exited with $?

Footnote 1: On my systems exit codes are represented as unsigned 8-bit numbers so they wrap at 256=0.

  • 1
    Note that this is only reliable for signal 9 which can't be trapped. Other signals can be trapped by the program which can then exit with any value.
    – GnP
    May 20, 2016 at 20:06
  • yes, as gnp told, the kill -9 cannot be traped
    – c4f4t0r
    May 23, 2016 at 17:42
  • Do you have any sources?
    – Twifty
    May 30, 2018 at 7:32

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