I have a small bash script that uses jq to construct a JSON object from user input. Unfortunately, I am unable to convince jq to accept a multi word variable as a value to one of its keys.

Here is an equivalent example from the bash prompt:

With no blank spaces jq works as I expected:

$> value="Input"
$> jq -n --arg value $value '{"key": ($value)}'


   "key": "Input"

But it breaks with a multi-word value:

$> value="A multi word input"
$> jq -n --arg value $value '{"key": ($value)}'

returns an error:

jq: error: multi/0 is not defined at <top-level>, line 1:
jq: 1 compile error

What's the magic that will convince jq not to choke on the white space of $value?

1 Answer 1


Your unquoted $value is subject to word splitting by the shell - the answer is simply to quote it:

$ jq -n --arg value "$value" '{"key": ($value)}'
  "key": "A multi word input"

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