How Do You Do Division in Shell Scripting?


Scott Campbell

Shell scripting is a powerful tool that allows users to automate tasks and perform various operations on their computer systems. One common operation that often needs to be performed is division. In this article, we will explore how to do division in shell scripting.

Using Arithmetic Expansion

One way to perform division in shell scripting is by using arithmetic expansion. This method allows you to evaluate mathematical expressions within a script. To divide two numbers, you can use the following syntax:

$((num1 / num2))

Here, num1 and num2 are variables representing the numbers you want to divide. The result of the division will be printed to the output.


To better understand how arithmetic expansion works for division, let’s consider an example:

# Divide two numbers using arithmetic expansion
result=$((num1 / num2))
echo "The result of $num1 divided by $num2 is: $result"

This script sets num1 to 10 and num2 to 2. It then uses arithmetic expansion to calculate the result of dividing num1 by num2. Finally, it prints the result as output.


In shell scripting, integer division returns only whole numbers. If you need to perform floating-point division, you can use other tools like Awk or bc.

The bc Command for Floating-Point Division

The bc command is a powerful calculator that can perform mathematical operations with arbitrary precision. It is commonly used in shell scripts to perform floating-point division.

To use the bc command for division, you need to echo the division expression as a string and pipe it to the bc command. The syntax for performing division with bc is as follows:

echo "scale=2; num1 / num2" | bc

Here, scale=2 specifies that the result should be rounded to two decimal places. You can adjust the scale value according to your needs.

To illustrate how to use the bc command for floating-point division, consider the following example:

# Divide two numbers using bc command
result=$(echo "scale=2; $num1 / $num2" | bc)
echo "The result of $num1 divided by $num2 is: $result"

This script sets num1 to 10 and num2 to 3. It then uses the bc command to calculate the result of dividing num1 by num2.

The result is rounded to two decimal places using “scale=2”.

If you intend to use the bc command for more complex calculations or higher precision, it is recommended to read its manual page for additional options and functionalities.


Performing division in shell scripting is a common task that can be accomplished using arithmetic expansion or the bc command. The choice between the two methods depends on whether you need integer or floating-point division.

By utilizing these methods, you can incorporate division into your shell scripts and automate calculations for various tasks. Remember to consider the requirements of your specific use case and choose the appropriate method accordingly.

  • Arithmetic expansion is suitable for integer division.
  • The bc command provides more flexibility for floating-point division.

Now that you understand how to perform division in shell scripting, you can apply this knowledge to streamline your automation processes and enhance your shell scripts’ functionality.

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