There are various obscure commands and options in *nix. Some are easier to associate to like: q for quit and so on. I am pretty sure that all the command names and options name have some meaning behind. Please keep sharing what you know or point to some resources on net. I searched for a while but didn't get a good resource.

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  • If you mean all of the various (and obscure) commands on Unix systems, this becomes really broad. For some specific cases there might be sensible answers, though most often it's probably just about initials, and perhaps second, or middle letters if the initials clash
    – ilkkachu
    May 31, 2017 at 6:35
  • Yes, It's really broad.. but instead of rote learning or taking one at a time.. I am looking for some definitive guide or something of that sort.. Individual contribution and knowledge would be welcome May 31, 2017 at 6:37
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    Start with man man and man less and help help and go from there. This is impossibly broad. Just read the site you're on; there are thousands of "individual contributions" and a lot of knowledge already here. If you won't take the time to read what's there or even look through it, or frame an actual specific question, why should others take the time to compile a hodgepodge of information into one single page?
    – Wildcard
    May 31, 2017 at 6:40
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    There is no specific answer for this question. Every other tool produced by different developer. There is no naming convention standard in the world for applications. You should take a look man pages. May 31, 2017 at 6:45
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    This is also primarily opinion-based. :) Take f.i. vi: the first ~20 keys might have had some meaning behind them, then the meaning for the remaining ones was: "there's no better shortcut left". May 31, 2017 at 6:52

1 Answer 1


Questions asking for learning materials are off topic here, unless it's related to the official POSIX documentation of standard utilities.

This may be found in the "Shell and Utilities" section of the POSIX 1003.1-2008 standard.

There you may find a list of all shell utilities and each utility described in detail, including what their options do, and often even examples of use.

You should also read the manual on your system for the tools that you use to familiarise yourself with them. The utilities on your system will likely be mostly POSIX compliant, but may well extend their repertoire of usage beyond what's required by the standard. Other tools are simply not standardized because their use falls outside of what the standard applies to.

When it comes to the letters used for options; Some utilities have lots of options, and it would be difficult to find meaningful names for them, especially if only the short one-letter options are used. However, options that are used across multiple utilities often (but not always) has the same name and semantics, such as -t or -d for "delimiter", or -o to specify the name of an output file. The Rationale section of some standard POSIX utilities may give the reasoning for the particular choice of options in some cases (like the discussion about the -b/-c option for tail).

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