When linking a directory to root, I get this error:

$ ln -s ~/inbox/ /
$ ln: //: Is a directory

Bash autocompletes the directory path by adding a /. I've tried escaping without success.

$ ln -s ~/inbox /

works though. Why is this?

  • 2
    What you wrote cannot work, I think you have to add more detail to your question. Also, are you working as root? Also, what exact OS are you on?
    – jippie
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 18:25
  • What OS is this? Is it GNU Coreutils, or the BSD utils?
    – jsbillings
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 19:46
  • I don't think it's coreutils. My version puts the file name in quotes, e.g. ln: 'foo': hard link not allowed for directory.
    – Mikel
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 20:43

2 Answers 2


In pathname resolution, having a trailing / is equivalent to a trailing /. — in other words, ~/inbox/ is equivalent to ~/inbox/. in this context. So the ln command is trying to create a link called . in the root directory (and, unsurprisingly, failing).

Zsh removes the trailing / when you press Space after completing a directory (unless configured not to do so). I don't know if bash can be made to do this.

  • Very interesting. Pathname resolution also says that symlinks should be resolved. But when you do ln symlink blah, blah should point to symlink, not what symlink points at.
    – Mikel
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 4:16

Is that exactly what you ran?

Is a directory looks like your OS printing the EISDIR error, which could happen two ways:

Trying to overwrite an existing symlink that points to a directory.

$ cd $(mktemp -d)
$ mkdir dir
$ ln -s dir dir    # this creates dir/dir
$ ln -s dir dir    # this fails, because dir/dir already exists
ln: failed to create symbolic link `dir/dir': File exists

Trying to create a hard link to a directory.

$ cd $(mktemp -d)
$ mkdir dir
$ ln dir dirlink
ln: `dir': hard link not allowed for directory

If it is what you were running, what does type ln or alias ln print?

  • I think it is good to explain what cd $(mktemp -d) does. Not everybody is familiar with this construction.
    – jippie
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 21:07
  • 1
    It creates a new directory somewhere under /tmp. It makes sure that the files I'm using in my examples don't already exist so that everyone can get try running the commands and get the same results.
    – Mikel
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 21:18

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