I want to get the exact number when I try to find the average of a column of values.

For example, this is the column of input values:


When I use the following command:

... | awk '{ sum+=$1} END { print sum/NR}'

I get the following output: 1.31638e+06. However, I want the exact number, which is 1316375.05 or even better, in this format 1,316,375.05

How can I do this with command line tools only?


I found the following one-liner awk command which will get me the max, min and mean:

awk 'NR == 1 { max=$1; min=$1; sum=0 } { if ($1>max) max=$1; if ($1<min) min=$1; sum+=$1;} END {printf "Min: %d\tMax: %d\tAverage: %.2f\n", min, max, sum/NR}'

Why is it that NR must be initialized as 1? When I delete NR == 1, I get the wrong result.


I found the following awk script from Is there a way to get the min, max, median, and average of a list of numbers in a single command?. It will get the sum, count, mean, median, max, and min values of a single column of numeric data, all in one go. It reads from stdin, and prints tab-separated columns of the output on a single line. I tweaked it a bit. I noticed that it does not need NR == 1 unlike the awk command above (in my first edit). Can someone please explain why? I think it has to do with the fact that the numeric data has been sorted and placed into an array.


sort -n | awk '

  $1 ~ /^(\-)?[0-9]*(\.[0-9]*)?$/ {
    a[c++] = $1;
    sum += $1;
  END {
    ave = sum / c;
    if( (c % 2) == 1 ) {
      median = a[ int(c/2) ];
    } else {
      median = ( a[c/2] + a[c/2-1] ) / 2;

    {printf "Sum: %d\tCount: %d\tAverage: %.2f\tMedian: %d\tMin: %d\tMax: %d\n", sum, c, ave, median, a[0], a[c-1]}
  • 3
    You might try using a formatted print inside awk, e.g., awk '{ sum+=$1} END { printf "%.2f\n", sum/NR}'
    – doneal24
    Commented May 31, 2020 at 17:10
  • 1
    Did you look at printf and its formatting options?
    – bu5hman
    Commented May 31, 2020 at 17:10
  • Perfect. Thanks!
    – rplee
    Commented May 31, 2020 at 17:22
  • 1
    Which bit is your question? Is it about the formatting of floating point numbers in the output, or about that thing with NR?
    – Kusalananda
    Commented May 31, 2020 at 18:07
  • Please explain your codes Commented May 31, 2020 at 18:20

2 Answers 2

... | awk '{ sum+=$1} END { print sum/NR}'

By default, (GNU) awk prints numbers with up to 6 significant digits (plus the exponent part). This comes from the default value of the OFMT variable. It doesn't say that in the docs, but this only applies to non-integer valued numbers.

You could change OFMT to affect all print statements, or rather, just use printf here, so it also works if the average happens to be an integer. Something like %.3f would print the numbers with three digits after the decimal point.

...| awk '{ sum+=$1} END { printf "%.3f\n", sum/NR }'

See the docs for the meaning of the f and g, and the precision modifier (.prec in the second link):

awk 'NR == 1 { max=$1; min=$1; sum=0 } ...'

This doesn't initialize NR. Instead, it checks if NR is equal to one, i.e. we're on the first line. (== is comparison, = is assignment.) If so, initializes max, min and sum. Without that, max and min would start as zeroes. You could never have a negative maximum value, or a positive minimum value.

  • Note that it (or any POSIX awk implementation) only does that for non-integer numbers. Commented May 31, 2020 at 18:57
  • @StéphaneChazelas, figures, since otherwise even 1234567 wouldn't print accurately. Too bad the GNU docs don't seem to mention that. Thanks.
    – ilkkachu
    Commented May 31, 2020 at 19:05
  • 1
    It's covered for CONVFMT though. See info gawk 'Strings And Numbers'. As a special case, if a number is an integer, then the result of converting it to a string is _always_ an integer, no matter what the value of 'CONVFMT' may be. It also says Pre-POSIX 'awk' Used 'OFMT' for String Conversion Commented May 31, 2020 at 19:09
  • 1
    Also note that there's some variation between awk implementations as to what is considered integer. See echo 1e10 1e19 1e30 | awk '{print $1+0, $2+0, $3+0}' in different awk implementations for instance. Commented May 31, 2020 at 19:15
  • @ikkachu Thanks for this explanation :) I still don't understand why when I use the awk command in Edit 1 without NR == 1, my output is : 'Min: 16214 Max: 16214 Average: 810.70' Do you mind walking me through what happens when NR == 1 is omitted? And also why NR == 1 is unnecessary in the script in Edit 2?
    – rplee
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 17:36

If using GNU awk, try this. Adds the commas by making use of the ' modifier.

$ awk '{sum+=$1}END{printf "%'\''.2f\n",sum/NR}' filename

If you've got jq, try this.

$ jq -s min,max,add/length filename

From gnu.org : gawk Format Modifiers

A single quote or apostrophe character is a POSIX extension to ISO C. It indicates that the integer part of a floating-point value, or the entire part of an integer decimal value, should have a thousands-separator character in it. This only works in locales that support such characters. For example:

  • Hmm... when I try the awk command I get the following : awk: run time error: improper conversion(number 1) in printf("%'.2f ") FILENAME="-" FNR=20 NR=20
    – rplee
    Commented May 31, 2020 at 20:54
  • I am using mawk 1.3.3
    – rplee
    Commented May 31, 2020 at 21:14
  • @rplee - mawk 1.3.3 is well over 10 years old. The ' format modifier got introduced to mawk later. See invisible-island.net/mawk/CHANGES.html#index-t20160927
    – steve
    Commented May 31, 2020 at 22:21
  • Ah ok I installed the latest version of mawk (mawk 1.3.4 from 1/20/2020) and it worked
    – rplee
    Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 6:08

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