I want to pass multiple DB files to the locate command, like this:

locate -d ~/.a_locate.db:~/.b_locate.db: -Ai file_to_find

But this gives me this error:

locate: can not stat () `~/.b_locate.db': No such file or directory

The man page for locate says:

-d, --database DBPATH Replace the default database with DBPATH.

DBPATH is a :-separated list of database file names. If more than one --database option is specified, the resulting path is a concatenation of the separate paths.

I don't clearly understand what is meant by 'concatenation of separate', What am I doing wrong? I tried giving the full path (/home/user/.b_locate.db) and it worked. Can someone explain this behaviour?

(I'm using mlocate package in Arch linux)

1 Answer 1


The second ~ isn’t being expanded; try

locate -d "${HOME}/.a_locate.db:${HOME}/.b_locate.db:" -Ai file_to_find

instead, or, since this is zsh, just

locate -d $HOME/.a_locate.db:$HOME/.b_locate.db: -Ai file_to_find

The reason is that ~/ is only expanded at the beginning of a shell word. A shell word only ends at whitespace (as far as it matters here — the actual rules are much more complicated). ~/foo:~/bar is a single word, which begins with ~/ so the leading ~ is expanded to your home directory, but the middle ~ is nothing special so it stays a tilde. There's an exception on the right-hand side of an assignment: in PATH=~/foo:~/bar, ~/ is expanded after the = assignment sign and after a : on the right-hand side.

  • Are you psychic :p Yes, this works, and so does locate -d "~/.a_locate.db:${HOME}/.b_locate.db:" -Ai file_to_find. Would you happen to know the reason behind this behavior?
    – aksh1618
    Mar 29, 2018 at 20:17
  • @A.K.S.H. See the edited answer. Mar 29, 2018 at 20:50
  • Multiple -d options are allowed. So I think it's ok with : locate -d ~/.a_locate.db -d ~/.b_locate.db: -Ai file_to_find . Note that the -A option dont' exist on OpenBSD.
    – ctac_
    Apr 1, 2018 at 7:43

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