$ cat /etc/issue
Debian GNU/Linux 8 \n \l

\l does not seem to mean carriage return and newline here.

What does \l mean in /etc/issue?

1 Answer 1


The escapes in /etc/issue are getty escapes, not the typical C-style or shell-style escapes. In particular:

  • \n inserts the hostname (“nodename”)
  • \l inserts the tty line

With the default /etc/issue you have, you’ll see

Debian GNU/Linux 8 hostname tty1

or something similar.

The available escape sequences are documented in the agetty(8) manpage (amongst others). If you want to use other escape sequences, you should check which getty implementation you’re using and read its documentation — some implementations support more escapes than others. \n and \l are widely supported.

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