In terminal, how can I define a key to go to the previous directory which I was in when changing directory with the cd command?

For example, I'm in /opt/soft/bin and I cd into /etc/squid3 and I want to get back to the first directory.


7 Answers 7


You can use

cd -

or you could use

cd "$OLDPWD"
  • 4
    Any idea why the directory name is printed to the console when using "cd -" ?
    – dtmland
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 23:56
  • 11
    Probably since the old shells didn't display the name of the current directory in the prompt, it was helpful to see the name of the directory when you typed cd -. For example when you type cd /usr/local you know that you are in /usr/loal, but when you type cd - you don't always remember from which directory you came from. So it saves you from typing cd -; pwd. But this is all speculation. Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 4:37
  • 3
    Or you can use aliasing: Set up alias as alias -- -='cd -' then use - (1 char) instead of cd - (4 char). Faster :D
    – ADTC
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 4:38
  • 5
    How could I ever live without this?
    – VSZM
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 7:45
  • 1
    @AndréKuhlmann You can do cd - twice. Do cd /; cd /usr; cd -; cd - you should be in /usr. But maybe I miss understood your question. Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 19:42

The other answers are definitely complete in the direct answer sense. cd - and cd $OLDPWD are definitely the main choices for this. However, I often find that getting into a workflow with pushd and popd works better.

Long story short, if you are moving into a directory with the ultimate intent of coming back to where you started, use pushd/popd.

Extended example

The major difference is easily shown by an example.

$ cd dir1
$ pushd dir2

At this point, you have a directory stack that is dir2, dir1. Running pushd with no arguments will put you back in dir1 with the stack now as dir1, dir2. popd would do the same, but would leave you with an empty directory stack. This is not much different than how you would have been with the cd - workflow.

However, now you can now change directories multiple times and get back to dir1. For example,

$ cd dir1
$ pushd dir2
$ cd dir3

If you run popd at this point, you will go back to dir1.

  • 2
    You can also stack directories, so repeatedly use pushd and go back to previous folder while popd-ing.
    – Bernhard
    Commented Jun 30, 2013 at 19:08
  • 1
    Certainly. I almost put a large example that included checking the stack with dirs -v, but the reality for me is that often the simple case is all I really use. (Or, worse, I make a mistake when trying push +2 or similar) Also, I thought baby steps for getting someone to try the workflow. :)
    – Josh Berry
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 2:53
  • How do you cd to the top of the stack without popping?
    – Jon Deaton
    Commented Sep 11, 2019 at 0:46
  • Do you need to use popd at all? Could you not just cd and pushd everywhere? Are there any disadvantages to doing so? Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 16:35
  • @Prometheus, if just CD around you also don't need to push. The idea is to retrieve the position later with pop.
    – The Fool
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 15:27

You should use:

cd ~-

it does the same as cd - (from the currently accepted answer) without the annoying echo of the directory and is easier to type than cd "$OLDPWD" or cd - > /dev/null.

  • 2
    Redirecting the echo to null file ! It's genius !!
    – RamValli
    Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 6:19
  • 2
    The echo shows the new directory not the previous one. And I would find it useful, so that I know where I am now, especially if I'm in a shell that only shows the current directory name (or nothing at all) on the prompt, and I'm too unbothered to change the prompt to show the full path. Of course, if your prompt already shows the full path, the echo would be redundant and annoying. In that case, I think you can try doing alias -- -='cd "$OLDPWD"' then using - (1 char) instead of cd ~- (5 char). :)
    – ADTC
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 4:37
  • Source and explanation: unix.stackexchange.com/a/330885/38213 Spoilers, - is an operand and ~'s are path aliases. So cd ~-/.. works but cd -/.. does not!
    – Ray Foss
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 14:27
  • Why does this work? Where can I find the documentation? It’s not on the --help. Commented Jun 24, 2021 at 6:56
$ cd - 

will change to the previous working directory.


You can "define a key" for cd - by editing your ~/.bashrc file and including an alias for the command. For example you could add cdc to make it cd - which would provide you with a shorter way to get to the last directory by adding:

alias cdc='cd -'

This way you would simply type cdc and it would put you in your last working directory.

  • 7
    And confuse you to no end when you use a system where that alias isn't in place. It saves typing one character every once in a while. Why even bother?
    – user
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 14:16
  • 2
    "In terminal, how can I define a key to go to the previous directory" I never get confused. Its just a shortcut, when you are on another system just use the long-hand way.
    – Atari911
    Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 19:25
  • @Atari911 great question! here's the answer: stackoverflow.com/questions/4200800 Here's what I did (bound F12): bind '"\e[24~":"\C-k \C-ucd -\n"' (or more preferably move it to inputrc file as mentioned in the answer).
    – ADTC
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 5:00

cd .. goes to the precedent folder in the folder's tree.
cd - goes to the folder which it was before. This command didn't work on some distros (ubuntu 16.04), works in debian 9.


I find the combination of fzf and dirs to be powerful for quickly navigating to any previously visited directory. fzf helps me sift through my directory history as dirs helps me list the directories on the directory stack.

I define the following alias called ch as follows:

alias ch="cd \$(dirs -pl | fzf)"

Now, if you type ch in the terminal you will see the following, and you can select the directory you want to move into. enter image description here

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