Let's say I have the following alias in bash - alias ls='ls --color=auto' - and I want to call ordinary ls without options. Is the only way to do that is to unalias, do the command and then alias again? Or there is some nifty trick or workaround?

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    Just a note about some of the answers below: "command" is the ONLY safe way to accomplish this. For example, the "." or "source" built-in maybe be overridden by a script-defined function. "command ." or "command source" is the only way to safely execute source without the script-defined function being invoked instead. None of the other alternatives, including the backslash method "\.", work, and of course there is no "/bin/source" alternative that you can invoke by specifying a full path. Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 18:46

9 Answers 9


You can also prefix a back slash to disable the alias: \ls

Edit: Other ways of doing the same include:

Use "command": command ls as per Mikel.

Use the full path: /bin/ls as per uther.

Quote the command: "ls" or 'ls' as per Mikel comment.

You can remove the alias temporarily for that terminal session with unalias command_name.

  • very nice, also works well with tcsh
    – Levon
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 13:15
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    This way is very useful. It only bypasses aliases, not functions, which makes it different from command or builtin.
    – Mikel
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 16:31
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    It seems like l\s does the same thing. Is this behaviour a bug or a feature?
    – Niklas B.
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 16:46
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    It's a "feature". Only unquoted aliases are expanded. So you can put it in quotes, or use a backslash anywhere you like. See bash aliases reference.
    – Mikel
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 17:55
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    In case these solutions aren't working, do type -a ls to troubleshoot. unix.stackexchange.com/questions/39291/…
    – wisbucky
    Commented Aug 6, 2021 at 19:09

That's what the command command is for.


command ls

This tells the shell to bypass aliases and functions.

This way is supported by bash, zsh, and ash/dash.

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    Because it adds 8 times the number of characters as the backslash method
    – JoelFan
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 13:12
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    @STATUS_ACCESS_DENIED This also doesn't work with tcsh (and therefore presumably not with csh either). The `\` method does
    – Levon
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 13:15
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    @Levon: the question was asked for bash, though ;) ... see the tags. And the reason the other one works is a quirk, nothing else. Commented May 25, 2012 at 13:21
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    The backslash feature is not secure. While it provides protection against similarly-named aliases, it does not provide protection against similarly-named functions. Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 18:48
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    @JoelFan I'd much rather have the few extra characters and have my scripts be easy to follow and work for everyone. Rather than a cryptic slash which is not intuitive, easy to miss, not well documented, and doesn't work for bypassing functions.
    – Dennis
    Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 9:52

The alias is just a defined shortcut. In this example, the alias defined is the string ls, which executes ls --color=auto. If you don't want that behavior, you can call the binary ls using the absolute path.

So executing just /bin/ls will produce output without color because it is not the alias you defined.

You could also change the alias to something different, or add a new alias that executes just ls without the color parameters.

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    You have to know where the command is. On some systems, the division between /bin and /usr/bin is arbitrary. Commented May 25, 2012 at 20:50
  • @KeithThompson For that, you could use which for some commands: which ls.
    – cst1992
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 11:44
  • @cst1992: If you're going to use which (or type), it does a lookup via $PATH; you might as well just use ls or \ls rather than specifying the path. Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 15:10
  • @cst1992 I know the OP is about Bash, but on zsh, both which and command -v or its human-readable command -V return the alias versions. Using \ls just works, but to get its real path I can only seem to think of echo "$PATH" | tr ':' '\n' | xargs -I{} find {} -maxdepth 1 -name 'ls' -type f 2>/dev/null | head -n1... which works.
    – mazunki
    Commented Feb 27, 2022 at 1:36

Another way, building upon @uther's answer, is to use $(which ...) or `which ...` (using backticks ``) to automatically find the executable's path. This will work in bash:

$(which ls)

`which ls`

Undoubtedly, simply prefixing the command with a \ is much shorter.

UPDATE: According to How to use `which` on an aliased command?, this doesn't seem to be reliable at all.

  • What's the brackets for? I guess you mean `which ls` to execute the binary directly.
    – amyassin
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 9:34
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    @amyassin: Both syntaxes are equivalent. (BTW, how did you get the backticks into the code formatting?)
    – krlmlr
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 11:25
  • Actually the (which ls) didn't work for me (on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS) And the backticks were hard, I just escaped them: \`which ls\`. It took a lot of editing to get there :)
    – amyassin
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 15:39
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    @user946850 "To include a literal backtick character within a code span, you can use multiple backticks as the opening and closing delimiters". Source: Markdown Reference.
    – Mikel
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 16:24
  • @amyassin: Did you add the $?
    – krlmlr
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 16:34

Personally, I just avoid defining aliases with the same names as commands, so ls always invokes the actual command. I have aliases or functions for various combinations of options like l, ll, and lg. (This means I need unalias ls in my .bashrc or .cshrc.)

I find that the OS's assumptions about which options I might prefer (overriding the assumptions of the designers of the ls command itself) rarely match my own personal tastes. I happen to dislike the look of ls --color=auto, and its legibility can vary greatly between black-on-white and white-on-black.

YMMV, and the other solutions are of course still good to know.

  • I think this is a good strategy, because what if 'ls' is aliased and then some other random script needs/expects the original behavior, but accidentally uses the "shadowed" ls?
    – Jay Brunet
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 18:39

If \ls and command ls are "not working", use type -a ls to troubleshoot what is happening.

In my case, \ls and command ls were returning nothing, and I was going crazy trying to figure out why. Turns out I somehow had a zero-byte file named ls in one of my paths, ~/bin.

I was able to fix the situation by deleting ~/bin/ls. Then hash -d ls to remove it from the hash table.

Side note:

which -a ls was not helpful because it only returned /bin/ls. Apparently, which cannot interpret the tilde in my path: ~/bin. However type -a ls can.


Typing the command in uppercase seems to work, like LS, though I'm not really sure why.

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    In which shell, which operating system, which terminal, etc.?
    – Mikel
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 23:32
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    @Mikel There is a package "sl" that provides "sl" as "ls". The tips bash gives in Ubuntu also say that "LS" is provided by "sl".
    – Izkata
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 0:18
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    This is bash 4 (installed with Fink) in Mac OS X 10.7. It also works for other commands that I have aliased like rm and grep.
    – asmeurer
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 2:34
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    It's just a joke :) from the mn page: LS - display animations aimed to correct users who accidentally enter LS instead of ls.
    – amyassin
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 9:29
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    I think this works for Mac OS X because its filesystem is case-insensitive by default. It won't work on other unixes.
    – Jander
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 13:30

One way that should be portable and independent of a shell type is to use env:

env - run a program in a modified environment


env [OPTION]... [-] [NAME=VALUE]... [COMMAND [ARG]...]

So running env ls [args] always invokes /bin/ls (or whichever is in PATH).

  • 🖒 . Note however that busybox env will likely (may be dependant on build time configuration settings) run the busybox ls applet rather than the one found in $PATH. Same applies to the command builtin of its shell Commented May 15 at 7:00

For zsh


  1. you type in the shell (stdin)
  2. history expansion, such as !!, !-3
  3. alias expansion (try ctrl-x then a, to see the expanded result)
  4. other expansions (order: Process Substitution > Parameter Expansion > Command Substitution > Arithmetic Expansion > Brace Expansion)

suppose we have:

alias pwd='echo "An Alias"'

then this function definition will get the error zsh: defining function based on alias 'pwd':

    echo "A function"
  • alias expansion may be avoided by adding any kind of quoting to the word. If you want to use unaliased pwd, type 'pwd', \pwd or "pwd" (`pwd` is not regarded as quoting)
  • builtin pwd use zsh' s built-in function(aka command?) pwd
  • command pwd use /bin/pwd, (from GNU)

If there is no alias pwd="echo WhatEver_blabla", and this is in zshrc:

    echo "A function"

then quoting like 'pwd' still calls this function.

But command pwd and built pwd work as expected

So we can have alias rg="\rg --hiddeng", but not rg(){ \rg --hidden} (Otherwise we will meet such error : maximum nested function level reached; increase FUNCNEST?)

ref: man zshall

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