I'm running iwlist wlo1 scan | grep ESSID inside a script.

It displays French characters in the following format

\xC3\x89 for É and \xC3\xA9 for é.

I'm not sure what this format is called. I tried using an answer for converting unicode echo -ne '\xC3\xA9' | iconv -f utf-16be but it converted to .

What is the official name for this format and how can I convert it in bash?

  • echo -ne "\xC3\x89" gives É – RomanPerekhrest Oct 28 '17 at 14:10
  • @RomanPerekhrest thank you, that fixes my issue. – Philip Kirkbride Oct 28 '17 at 14:12
  • @RomanPerekhrest do you want to post as an answer? – Philip Kirkbride Oct 28 '17 at 14:14
  • Philip Kirkbride, ok, posted ... – RomanPerekhrest Oct 28 '17 at 14:39

Hexdecimal numeric constants are usually represented with 0x prefix.
Character and string constants may express character codes in hexadecimal with the prefix \x followed by two hex digits.

echo -ne '\xC3\x89' should give you É.

  • -e - enable interpretation of backslash escapes(including \xHH - byte with hexadecimal value HH (1 to 2 digits))

To deal with better portability use printf function:

printf "%b" '\xC3\x89'
  • echo -e is nonportable -- even bash doesn't always offer it, since when both posix and xpg_echo options are enabled echo -e just prints -e on output, as standard compliance requires. Better to use printf '%b\n' '\xC3\x89' – Charles Duffy Oct 28 '17 at 17:29
  • ...to demonstrate this, consider bash -c 'set -o posix; shopt -s xpg_echo; printf "%b\n" "$1"; echo -e "$1"' _ '\xC3\x89' (and note that xpg_echo can be set on-by-default at compile time). – Charles Duffy Oct 28 '17 at 17:38
  • @CharlesDuffy, you have my update – RomanPerekhrest Oct 28 '17 at 20:05


 % echo -n éÉ | hd
 00000000  c3 a9 c3 89                                       |....|

where hd is the hexdump utility.

So your thing is just UTF-8 encoding (and your observed output \xC3\x89 is the hexadecimal representation of UTF-8). Today we have UTF-8 everywhere.

My environment has both LANG=en_US.UTF-8 and LC_ALL=en_US.UTF-8 (even if I am French).


echo '\xC3\x89\xC3\xA9'



as expected.

And so does

echo  "\\xC3\\x89\\xC3\\xA9" | iconv -t utf-8

Read also locale(7).

Notice that some character encodings (e.g. old plain ASCII) don't have any é or É characters, and others (e.g. ISO-8859-1) encode them differently.

  • When I run echo "\\xC3\\x89\\xC3\\xA9" | iconv -t utf-8 my output is the same as the input, same for normal echo. LANG=en_CA.UTF-8 and LC_ALL not set. I'm hoping to have something that will work on a variety of machines. – Philip Kirkbride Oct 28 '17 at 14:10
  • 1
    You can't display é on an ASCII system, because that letter does not exist in ASCII encoding. – Basile Starynkevitch Oct 28 '17 at 14:12

iwlist displays all the bytes that don't correspond to ASCII non-control characters as the \xHH where HH is the byte number in hexadecimal.

To undo that encoding, you can pipe the output of iwlist to

perl -pe 's/\\x([\da-f]{2})/chr(hex($1))/gie'

Byte 0xc3 followed by 0xa9 make up the UTF-8 encoding of the é character.

If your locale also uses the UTF-8 encoding, then the output of perl will show that é character. If not (unlikely as UTF-8 is the norm), you can always pipe the output of perl to iconv -f utf-8 to convert it from UTF-8 to the character encoding used in your locale.

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