Can patch be invoked with idempotency; i.e., is there some combination of options that will cause repeated invocations of patch to have the same effect as a single invocation of patch (for a non-empty diff)?

  • 1
    <mode trolling> Yep! --dry-run </mode trolling>
    – MC68020
    Aug 10, 2020 at 21:21
  • Upvoted because I love pedantry. :D Too true, if we extend the idempotency requirement to cover the exit status, this might be the only way of invoking patch on a non-empty input! Thank you, @MC68020, for reminding me that a null effect is always idempotent.
    – rubicks
    Aug 11, 2020 at 15:21

1 Answer 1


Some patches can be applied multiple times, so this can’t be guaranteed; but

patch -N -r- -i your.patch

will apply your.patch, ignoring any hunks which have already been applied.

-N avoids trying to revert an already-applied patch, and -r- skips saving failed hunks to .rej files.

  • Is there anything that allows patch to return success in the course of skipping already-applied hunks?
    – rubicks
    Aug 10, 2020 at 21:38
  • No, it only ever returns success if all hunks are applied successfully. Depending on your scenario, the distinction between exit code 1 (at least one hunk failed) and 2 (more serious trouble) might be useful. Aug 10, 2020 at 21:52

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