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.


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 Aug 31 '15 at 23:56
  • 10
    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. – Raphael Ahrens Sep 1 '15 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 Feb 16 '16 at 4:38
  • 4
    How could I ever live without this? – VSZM Jun 7 '18 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. – Raphael Ahrens Jan 7 '19 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 Jun 30 '13 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 Jul 1 '13 at 2:53
  • How do you cd to the top of the stack without popping? – Jon Deaton Sep 11 '19 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? – Hashim Aziz Nov 12 '19 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 Aug 18 '20 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 !! – Ram Feb 11 '16 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 Feb 16 '16 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 Jun 7 '19 at 14:27
$ 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.

  • 5
    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 Jul 1 '13 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 Jul 1 '13 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 Feb 16 '16 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.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.