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About bash : Make-a-Bash-alias-that-takes-a-parameter

Question Detail

I used to use CShell (csh), which lets you make an alias that takes a parameter. The notation was something like

alias junk="mv \\!* ~/.Trash"

In Bash, this does not seem to work. Given that Bash has a multitude of useful features, I would assume that this one has been implemented but I am wondering how.

Question Answer

Bash alias does not directly accept parameters. You will have to create a function.

alias does not accept parameters but a function can be called just like an alias. For example:

myfunction() {
    #do things with parameters like $1 such as
    mv "$1" "$1.bak"
    cp "$2" "$1"

myfunction old.conf new.conf #calls `myfunction`

By the way, Bash functions defined in your .bashrc and other files are available as commands within your shell. So for instance you can call the earlier function like this

$ myfunction original.conf my.conf

Refining the answer above, you can get 1-line syntax like you can for aliases, which is more convenient for ad-hoc definitions in a shell or .bashrc files:

bash$ myfunction() { mv "$1" "$1.bak" && cp -i "$2" "$1"; }

bash$ myfunction original.conf my.conf

Don’t forget the semi-colon before the closing right-bracket. Similarly, for the actual question:

csh% alias junk="mv \\!* ~/.Trash"

bash$ junk() { mv "$@" ~/.Trash/; }


bash$ junk() { for item in "$@" ; do echo "Trashing: $item" ; mv "$item" ~/.Trash/; done; }

The question is simply asked wrong. You don’t make an alias that takes parameters because alias just adds a second name for something that already exists. The functionality the OP wants is the function command to create a new function. You do not need to alias the function as the function already has a name.

I think you want something like this :

function trash() { mv "$@" ~/.Trash; }

That’s it! You can use parameters $1, $2, $3, etc, or just stuff them all with $@

TL;DR: Do this instead

Its far easier and more readable to use a function than an alias to put arguments in the middle of a command.

$ wrap_args() { echo "before $@ after"; }
$ wrap_args 1 2 3
before 1 2 3 after

If you read on, you’ll learn things that you don’t need to know about shell argument processing. Knowledge is dangerous. Just get the outcome you want, before the dark side forever controls your destiny.


bash aliases do accept arguments, but only at the end:

$ alias speak=echo
$ speak hello world
hello world

Putting arguments into the middle of command via alias is indeed possible but it gets ugly.

Don’t try this at home, kiddies!

If you like circumventing limitations and doing what others say is impossible, here’s the recipe. Just don’t blame me if your hair gets frazzled and your face ends up covered in soot mad-scientist-style.

The workaround is to pass the arguments that alias accepts only at the end to a wrapper that will insert them in the middle and then execute your command.

Solution 1

If you’re really against using a function per se, you can use:

$ alias wrap_args='f(){ echo before "$@" after;  unset -f f; }; f'
$ wrap_args x y z
before x y z after

You can replace $@ with $1 if you only want the first argument.

Explanation 1

This creates a temporary function f, which is passed the arguments (note that f is called at the very end). The unset -f removes the function definition as the alias is executed so it doesn’t hang around afterwards.

Solution 2

You can also use a subshell:

$ alias wrap_args='sh -c '\''echo before "$@" after'\'' _'

Explanation 2

The alias builds a command like:

sh -c 'echo before "$@" after' _


  • The placeholder _ is required, but it could be anything. It gets set to sh‘s $0, and is required so that the first of the user-given arguments don’t get consumed. Demonstration:

    sh -c 'echo Consumed: "$0" Printing: "$@"' alcohol drunken babble
    Consumed: alcohol Printing: drunken babble
  • The single-quotes inside single-quotes are required. Here’s an example of it not working with double quotes:

    $ sh -c "echo Consumed: $0 Printing: $@" alcohol drunken babble
    Consumed: -bash Printing:

    Here the values of the interactive shell’s $0 and $@ are replaced into the double quoted before it is passed to sh. Here’s proof:

    echo "Consumed: $0 Printing: $@"
    Consumed: -bash Printing:

    The single quotes ensure that these variables are not interpreted by interactive shell, and are passed literally to sh -c.

    You could use double-quotes and \$@, but best practice is to quote your arguments (as they may contain spaces), and \"\$@\" looks even uglier, but may help you win an obfuscation contest where frazzled hair is a prerequisite for entry.

All you have to do is make a function inside an alias:

$ alias mkcd='_mkcd(){ mkdir "$1"; cd "$1";}; _mkcd'
             ^        *      ^  ^     ^  ^         ^

You must put double quotes around “$1” because single quotes will not work. This is because clashing the quotes at the places marked with arrows confuses the system. Also, a space at the place marked with a star is needed for the function.

An alternative solution is to use marker, a tool I’ve created recently that allows you to “bookmark” command templates and easily place cursor at command place-holders:

I found that most of time, I’m using shell functions so I don’t have to write frequently used commands again and again in the command-line. The issue of using functions for this use case, is adding new terms to my command vocabulary and having to remember what functions parameters refer to in the real-command. Marker goal is to eliminate that mental burden.

Once i did some fun project and i still use it. It’s showing some animation while i copy files via cp command coz cp don’t show anything and it’s kind of frustrating. So i made this alias

alias cp="~/SCR/spiner cp"

And this is the spiner script


#Set timer
T=$(date +%s)

#Add some color
. ~/SCR/color

#Animation sprites
sprite=( "(* )  ( *)" " (* )( *) " " ( *)(* ) " "( *)  (* )" "(* )  ( *)" )

#Print empty line and hide cursor
printf "\n${COF}"

#Exit function
function bye { printf "${CON}"; [ -e /proc/$pid ] && kill -9 $pid; exit; }; trap bye INT

#Run our command and get its pid
"$@" & pid=$!

#Waiting animation
i=0; while [ -e /proc/$pid ]; do sleep 0.1

    printf "\r${GRN}Please wait... ${YLW}${sprite[$i]}${DEF}"
    ((i++)); [[ $i = ${#sprite[@]} ]] && i=0


#Print time and exit
T=$(($(date +%s)-$T))
printf "\n\nTime taken: $(date -u -d @${T} +'%T')\n"


It’s look like this

Cycled animation)

Here is the link to a color script mentioned above.
And new animation cycle)


alias shortName="your custom command here"


alias tlogs='_t_logs() { tail -f ../path/$1/to/project/logs.txt ;}; _t_logs'

Bash alias absolutely does accept parameters. I just added an alias to create a new react app which accepts the app name as a parameter. Here’s my process:

Open the bash_profile for editing in nano

nano /.bash_profile

Add your aliases, one per line:

alias gita='git add .'
alias gitc='git commit -m "$@"'
alias gitpom='git push origin master'
alias creact='npx create-react-app "$@"'

note: the “$@” accepts parameters passed in like “creact my-new-app”

Save and exit nano editor

ctrl+o to to write (hit enter); ctrl+x to exit

Tell terminal to use the new aliases in .bash_profile

source /.bash_profile

That’s it! You can now use your new aliases

Here’s are three examples of functions I have in my ~/.bashrc, that are essentially aliases that accept a parameter:

#Utility required by all below functions.
alias trim="sed -e 's/^[[:space:]]*//g' -e 's/[[:space:]]*\$//g'"


    Alias function for recursive deletion, with are-you-sure prompt.

        srf /home/myusername/django_files/rest_tutorial/rest_venv/

    Parameter is required, and must be at least one non-whitespace character.

    Short description: Stored in SRF_DESC

    With the following setting, this is *not* added to the history:
        export HISTIGNORE="*rm -r*:srf *"
    - https://superuser.com/questions/232885/can-you-share-wisdom-on-using-histignore-in-bash

    - y/n prompt: https://stackoverflow.com/a/3232082/2736496
    - Alias w/param: https://stackoverflow.com/a/7131683/2736496
#SRF_DESC: For "aliaf" command (with an 'f'). Must end with a newline.
SRF_DESC="srf [path]: Recursive deletion, with y/n prompt\n"
srf()  {
    #Exit if no parameter is provided (if it's the empty string)
        param=$(echo "$1" | trim)
        echo "$param"
        if [ -z "$param" ]  #http://tldp.org/LDP/abs/html/comparison-ops.html
          echo "Required parameter missing. Cancelled"; return

    #Actual line-breaks required in order to expand the variable.
    #- https://stackoverflow.com/a/4296147/2736496
    read -r -p "About to
    sudo rm -rf \"$param\"
Are you sure? [y/N] " response
    response=${response,,}    # tolower
    if [[ $response =~ ^(yes|y)$ ]]
        sudo rm -rf "$param"
        echo "Cancelled."


    Delete item from history based on its line number. No prompt.

    Short description: Stored in HX_DESC

        hx 112
        hx 3

    - https://unix.stackexchange.com/questions/57924/how-to-delete-commands-in-history-matching-a-given-string
#HX_DESC: For "aliaf" command (with an 'f'). Must end with a newline.
HX_DESC="hx [linenum]: Delete history item at line number\n"
hx()  {
    history -d "$1"


    Deletes all lines from the history that match a search string, with a
    prompt. The history file is then reloaded into memory.

    Short description: Stored in HXF_DESC

        hxf "rm -rf"
        hxf ^source

    Parameter is required, and must be at least one non-whitespace character.

    With the following setting, this is *not* added to the history:
        export HISTIGNORE="*hxf *"
    - https://superuser.com/questions/232885/can-you-share-wisdom-on-using-histignore-in-bash

    - https://unix.stackexchange.com/questions/57924/how-to-delete-commands-in-history-matching-a-given-string
#HXF_DESC: For "aliaf" command (with an 'f'). Must end with a newline.
HXF_DESC="hxf [searchterm]: Delete all history items matching search term, with y/n prompt\n"
hxf()  {
    #Exit if no parameter is provided (if it's the empty string)
        param=$(echo "$1" | trim)
        echo "$param"
        if [ -z "$param" ]  #http://tldp.org/LDP/abs/html/comparison-ops.html
          echo "Required parameter missing. Cancelled"; return

    read -r -p "About to delete all items from history that match \"$param\". Are you sure? [y/N] " response
    response=${response,,}    # tolower
    if [[ $response =~ ^(yes|y)$ ]]
        #Delete all matched items from the file, and duplicate it to a temp
        grep -v "$param" "$HISTFILE" > /tmp/history

        #Clear all items in the current sessions history (in memory). This
        #empties out $HISTFILE.
        history -c

        #Overwrite the actual history file with the temp one.
        mv /tmp/history "$HISTFILE"

        #Now reload it.
        history -r "$HISTFILE"     #Alternative: exec bash
        echo "Cancelled."


  • Trimming whitespace from strings: How to trim whitespace from a Bash variable?
  • Actual line breaks: https://stackoverflow.com/a/4296147/2736496
  • Alias w/param: https://stackoverflow.com/a/7131683/2736496 (another answer in this question)
  • HISTIGNORE: https://superuser.com/questions/232885/can-you-share-wisdom-on-using-histignore-in-bash
  • Y/N prompt: https://stackoverflow.com/a/3232082/2736496
  • Delete all matching items from history: https://unix.stackexchange.com/questions/57924/how-to-delete-commands-in-history-matching-a-given-string
  • Is string null/empty: http://tldp.org/LDP/abs/html/comparison-ops.html

Respectfully to all those saying you can’t insert a parameter in the middle of an alias I just tested it and found that it did work.

alias mycommand = "python3 "$1" script.py --folderoutput RESULTS/"

when I then ran mycommand foobar it worked exactly as if I had typed the command out longhand.

If you’re looking for a generic way to apply all params to a function, not just one or two or some other hardcoded amount, you can do that this way:

#!/usr/bin/env bash

# you would want to `source` this file, maybe in your .bash_profile?
function runjar_fn(){
    java -jar myjar.jar "$@";

alias runjar=runjar_fn;

So in the example above, i pass all parameters from when i run runjar to the alias.

For example, if i did runjar hi there it would end up actually running java -jar myjar.jar hi there. If i did runjar one two three it would run java -jar myjar.jar one two three.

I like this $@ – based solution because it works with any number of params.

NB: In case the idea isn’t obvious, it is a bad idea to use aliases for anything but aliases, the first one being the ‘function in an alias’ and the second one being the ‘hard to read redirect/source’. Also, there are flaws (which i thought would be obvious, but just in case you are confused: I do not mean them to actually be used… anywhere!)


I’ve answered this before, and it has always been like this in the past:

alias foo='__foo() { unset -f $0; echo "arg1 for foo=$1"; }; __foo()'

which is fine and good, unless you are avoiding the use of functions all together. in which case you can take advantage of bash’s vast ability to redirect text:

alias bar='cat <<< '\''echo arg1 for bar=$1'\'' | source /dev/stdin'

They are both about the same length give or take a few characters.

The real kicker is the time difference, the top being the ‘function method’ and the bottom being the ‘redirect-source’ method. To prove this theory, the timing speaks for itself:

arg1 for foo=FOOVALUE
 real 0m0.011s user 0m0.004s sys 0m0.008s  # <--time spent in foo
 real 0m0.000s user 0m0.000s sys 0m0.000s  # <--time spent in bar
arg1 for bar=BARVALUE
ubuntu@localhost /usr/bin# time foo FOOVALUE; time bar BARVALUE
arg1 for foo=FOOVALUE
 real 0m0.010s user 0m0.004s sys 0m0.004s
 real 0m0.000s user 0m0.000s sys 0m0.000s
arg1 for bar=BARVALUE
ubuntu@localhost /usr/bin# time foo FOOVALUE; time bar BARVALUE
arg1 for foo=FOOVALUE
 real 0m0.011s user 0m0.000s sys 0m0.012s
 real 0m0.000s user 0m0.000s sys 0m0.000s
arg1 for bar=BARVALUE
ubuntu@localhost /usr/bin# time foo FOOVALUE; time bar BARVALUE
arg1 for foo=FOOVALUE
 real 0m0.012s user 0m0.004s sys 0m0.004s
 real 0m0.000s user 0m0.000s sys 0m0.000s
arg1 for bar=BARVALUE
ubuntu@localhost /usr/bin# time foo FOOVALUE; time bar BARVALUE
arg1 for foo=FOOVALUE
 real 0m0.010s user 0m0.008s sys 0m0.004s
 real 0m0.000s user 0m0.000s sys 0m0.000s
arg1 for bar=BARVALUE

This is the bottom part of about 200 results, done at random intervals. It seems that function creation/destruction takes more time than redirection. Hopefully this will help future visitors to this question (didn’t want to keep it to myself).

I will just post my (hopefully, okay) solution
(for future readers, & most vitally; editors).
So – please edit & improve/remove anything in this post.

In the terminal:

$ alias <name_of_your_alias>_$argname="<command> $argname"

and to use it (notice the space after ‘_’:

$<name_of_your_alias>_ $argname

for example, a alias to cat a file called hello.txt:

  • (alias name is CAT_FILE_)
  • and the $f (is the $argname, which is a file in this example)
$ alias CAT_FILE_$f="cat $f"

$ echo " " >> hello.txt
$ echo "hello there!" >> hello.txt
$ echo " " >> hello.txt
$ cat hello.txt

    hello there!

Test (notice the space after ‘_’):

CAT_FILE_ hello.txt

There are legitimate technical reasons to want a generalized solution to the problem of bash alias not having a mechanism to take a reposition arbitrary arguments. One reason is if the command you wish to execute would be adversely affected by the changes to the environment that result from executing a function. In all other cases, functions should be used.

What recently compelled me to attempt a solution to this is that I wanted to create some abbreviated commands for printing the definitions of variables and functions. So I wrote some functions for that purpose. However, there are certain variables which are (or may be) changed by a function call itself. Among them are:


The basic command I had been using (in a function) to print variable defns. in the form output by the set command was:

sv () { set | grep --color=never -- "^$1=.*"; }


> V=voodoo
sv V

Problem: This won’t print the definitions of the variables mentioned above as they are in the current context, e.g., if in an interactive shell prompt (or not in any function calls), FUNCNAME isn’t defined. But my function tells me the wrong information:


One solution I came up with has been mentioned by others in other posts on this topic. For this specific command to print variable defns., and which requires only one argument, I did this:

alias asv='(grep -- "^$(cat -)=.*" <(set)) <<<'

Which gives the correct output (none), and result status (false):

> echo $?

However, I still felt compelled to find a solution that works for arbitrary numbers of arguments.

A General Solution To Passing Arbitrary Arguments To A Bash Aliased Command:

# (I put this code in a file "alias-arg.sh"):

# cmd [arg1 ...] – an experimental command that optionally takes args,
# which are printed as "cmd(arg1 ...)"
# Also sets global variable "CMD_DONE" to "true".
cmd () { echo "cmd($@)"; declare -g CMD_DONE=true; }

# Now set up an alias "ac2" that passes to cmd two arguments placed
# after the alias, but passes them to cmd with their order reversed:
# ac2 cmd_arg2 cmd_arg1 – calls "cmd" as: "cmd cmd_arg1 cmd_arg2"
alias ac2='
    # Set up cmd to be execed after f() finishes:
    trap '\''cmd "${CMD_ARGV[1]}" "${CMD_ARGV[0]}"'\'' SIGUSR1;
    #        ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    #       (^This is the actually execed command^)
    # f [arg0 arg1 ...] – acquires args and sets up trap to run cmd:
    f () {
        declare -ag CMD_ARGV=("$@");  # array to give args to cmd
        kill -SIGUSR1 $$;             # this causes cmd to be run
        trap SIGUSR1;                 # unset the trap for SIGUSR1
        unset CMD_ARGV;               # clean up env...
        unset f;                      # incl. this function!
    f'  # Finally, exec f, which will receive the args following "ac2".


> . alias-arg.sh
> ac2 one two
cmd(two one)
> # Check to see that command run via trap affects this environment:
> asv CMD_DONE

A nice thing about this solution is that all the special tricks used to handle positional parameters (arguments) to commands will work when composing the trapped command. The only difference is that array syntax must be used.


If you want “$@”, use “${CMD_ARGV[@]}”.

If you want “$#”, use “${#CMD_ARGV[@]}”.


As has already been pointed out by others, using a function should be considered best practice.

However, here is another approach, leveraging xargs:

alias junk="xargs -I "{}" -- mv "{}" "~/.Trash" <<< "

Note that this has side effects regarding redirection of streams.

Here’s the example:

alias gcommit='function _f() { git add -A; git commit -m "$1"; } ; _f'

Very important:

  1. There is a space after { and before }.
  2. There is a ; after each command in sequence. If you forget this after the last command, you will see > prompt instead!
  3. The argument is enclosed in quotes as "$1"

To give specific answer to the Question posed about creating the alias to move the files to Trash folder instead of deleting them:

alias rm="mv "$1" -t ~/.Trash/"

Offcourse you have to create dir ~/.Trash first.

Then just give following command:

$rm <filename>
$rm <dirname>

Solution with subcommands:

d () {
    if [ $# -eq 0 ] ; then
        return 0

    case $CMD in
        docker ps --all $@
        docker run --interactive --tty $@
        docker container prune
        docker image prune --filter "dangling=true"
        docker $CMD $@
    return $?


$ d r my_image ...


docker run --interactive --tty my_image ...

Functions are indeed almost always the answer as already amply contributed and confirmed by this quote from the man page: “For almost every purpose, aliases are superseded by shell functions.”

For completeness and because this can be useful (marginally more lightweight syntax) it could be noted that when the parameter(s) follow the alias, they can still be used (although this wouldn’t address the OP’s requirement). This is probably easiest to demonstrate with an example:

alias ssh_disc='ssh -O stop'

allows me to type smth like ssh_disc myhost, which gets expanded as expected as: ssh -O stop myhost

This can be useful for commands which take complex arguments (my memory isn’t what it use t be anymore…)

For taking parameters, you should use functions!

However $@ get interpreted when creating the alias instead of during the execution of the alias and escaping the $ doesn’t work either. How do I solve this problem?

You need to use shell function instead of an alias to get rid of this problem. You can define foo as follows:

function foo() { /path/to/command "$@" ;}


foo() { /path/to/command "$@" ;}

Finally, call your foo() using the following syntax:

foo arg1 arg2 argN

Make sure you add your foo() to ~/.bash_profile or ~/.zshrc file.

In your case, this will work

function trash() { mv $@ ~/.Trash; }

Both functions and aliases can use parameters as others have shown here. Additionally, I would like to point out a couple of other aspects:

1. function runs in its own scope, alias shares scope

It may be useful to know this difference in cases you need to hide or expose something. It also suggests that a function is the better choice for encapsulation.

function tfunc(){
    GlobalFromFunc="Global From Func" # Function set global variable by default
    local FromFunc="onetwothree from func" # Set a local variable


alias talias='local LocalFromAlias="Local from Alias";  GlobalFromAlias="Global From Alias" # Cant hide a variable with local here '
# Test variables set by tfunc
tfunc # call tfunc
echo $GlobalFromFunc # This is visible
echo $LocalFromFunc # This is not visible
# Test variables set by talias
# call talias
echo $GlobalFromAlias # This is invisible
echo $LocalFromAlias # This variable is unset and unusable 


bash-3.2$     # Test variables set by tfunc
bash-3.2$     tfunc # call tfunc
bash-3.2$     echo $GlobalFromFunc # This is visible
Global From Func
bash-3.2$     echo $LocalFromFunc # This is not visible

bash-3.2$     # Test variables set by talias
bash-3.2$     # call talias
bash-3.2$     talias
bash: local: can only be used in a function
bash-3.2$     echo $GlobalFromAlias # This is invisible
Global From Alias
bash-3.2$ echo $LocalFromAlias # This variable is unset and unusable

2. wrapper script is a better choice

It has happened to me several times that an alias or function can not be found when logging in via ssh or involving switching usernames or multi-user environment. There are tips and tricks with sourcing dot files, or this interesting one with alias: alias sd='sudo ' lets this subsequent alias alias install='sd apt-get install' work as expect (notice the extra space in sd='sudo '). However, a wrapper script works better than a function or alias in cases like this. The main advantage with a wrapper script is that it is visible/executable for under intended path (i.e. /usr/loca/bin/) where as a function/alias needs to be sourced before it is usable. For example, you put a function in a ~/.bash_profile or ~/.bashrc for bash, but later switch to another shell (i.e. zsh) then the function is not visible anymore.
So, when you are in doubt, a wrapper script is always the most reliable and portable solution.

Here is another approach using read. I am using this for brute search of a file by its name fragment, ignoring the “permission denied” messages.

alias loc0='{ IFS= read -r x; find . -iname "*" -print 2>/dev/null | grep $x;} <<<'

A simple example:

$ { IFS= read -r x; echo "1 $x 2 ";} <<< "a b"
1 a b 2 

Note, that this converts the argument as a string into variable(s). One could use several parameters within quotes for this, space separated:

$ { read -r x0 x1; echo "1 ${x0} 2 ${x1} 3 ";} <<< "a b"
1 a 2 b 3 

alias junk="delay-arguments mv _ ~/.Trash"

delay-arguments script:


# Example:
# > delay-arguments echo 1 _ 3 4 2
# 1 2 3 4
# > delay-arguments echo "| o n e" _ "| t h r e e" "| f o u r" "| t w o"
# | o n e | t w o | t h r e e | f o u r




for ARG in "$@"; do
  #echo $ARG
  if [[ "$ARG" == "$ARG_DELAY_MARKER" ]]; then

for ((I=0; I<$RAW_ARGS_COUNT-$SKIPPED_ARGS; I++)); do
  if [[ "$ARG" == "$ARG_DELAY_MARKER" ]]; then
    if [[ "$MOVING_ARG" == "$ARG_DELAY_MARKER" ]]; then
      echo "Error: Not enough arguments!"
      exit 1;
    #echo "Moving arg: $MOVING_ARG"

#for ARG in "${ARGS[@]}"; do
  #echo "ARGN: $ARG"


#echo "${ARGS[@]}"
QUOTED_ARGS=$(printf ' %q' "${ARGS[@]}")
eval "${QUOTED_ARGS[@]}"

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