What Are Variables in Shell Scripting?


Scott Campbell

Variables are an essential concept in shell scripting. They allow us to store and manipulate data, making our scripts more flexible and powerful. In this article, we will explore what variables are in shell scripting and how to use them effectively.

What are Variables?
In shell scripting, a variable is a named container that holds a value. This value can be a number, a string of characters, or any other data type supported by the shell. Variables act as placeholders for data that can change during the execution of a script.

Variable Naming Conventions
When naming variables in shell scripting, there are certain conventions to follow. Variable names should start with a letter or an underscore (_), followed by letters, numbers, or underscores. Avoid using special characters or spaces in variable names as they can cause errors.

Assigning Values to Variables
To assign a value to a variable in shell scripting, we use the equal (=) sign. The syntax is as follows:


For example, let’s assign the value “Hello World” to a variable named “message”:

message="Hello World"

Now we can access the value stored in the variable using the dollar ($) sign:

echo $message

This will output:

Hello World

Data Types in Shell Scripting
Shell scripting supports different data types for variables:

  • String: A sequence of characters enclosed in single or double quotes.
  • Number: Shell treats all variables as strings by default unless specified otherwise.
  • Array: A collection of elements stored under a single variable name.
  • Boolean: Represents logical values, either true or false.

Using Variables in Shell Scripts
Variables can be used in various ways within shell scripts. They allow us to store intermediate results, prompt for user input, or pass values between different parts of a script.

Variable Substitution
We can substitute the value of a variable into a command or text by enclosing the variable name in curly braces ({}) preceded by a dollar sign ($). This is especially useful when concatenating strings:

echo "Hello ${name}"

The output will be:

Hello John

Variables are powerful tools in shell scripting that allow us to store and manipulate data. They make our scripts more flexible and adaptable to different scenarios. By understanding how variables work and following proper naming conventions, we can write more efficient and effective shell scripts.


– Variables are named containers that hold values in shell scripting. – They allow us to store and manipulate data during script execution. – Variable names should follow certain conventions and avoid using special characters or spaces.

– Values can be assigned to variables using the equal (=) sign. – Shell scripting supports various data types such as strings, numbers, arrays, and booleans. – Variables can be used in commands and text by enclosing their names in curly braces ({}) preceded by a dollar sign ($).

Now that you have a good understanding of what variables are in shell scripting, you can start incorporating them into your own scripts. Happy coding!

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