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The declare builtin command

declare [-aAfFgilrtux] [-p] [NAME[=VALUE] ...]

# obsolete typeset synonym
typeset [-aAfFgilrtux] [-p] [NAME[=VALUE] ...]

declare is used to display or set variables along with variable attributes. When used to display variables/functions and their value, the output is re-usable as input for the shell.

If no NAME is given, it displays the values of all variables or functions when restricted by the -f option.

If NAME is followed by =VALUE, declare also sets the value for a variable.

When used in a function, declare makes NAMEs local variables, unless used with the -g option.

Don't use it's synonym typeset when coding for Bash, since it's tagged as obsolete.


Below, [-+]X indicates an attribute, use -X to set the attribute, +X to remove it.

Option Description
[-+]a make NAMEs indexed arrays (removing with +a is valid syntax, but leads to an error message)
[-+]A make NAMEs associative arrays
-f restrict action or display to function names and definitions (removing with +f is valid syntax, but leads to an error message)
-F restrict display to function names only (plus line number and source file when debugging)
-g create global variables when used in a shell function; otherwise ignored (by default, declare declares local scope variables when used in shell functions)
[-+]i make NAMEs have the "integer" attribute
[-+]l convert NAMEs to lower case on assignment (makes sure the variable contains only lower case letters)
-p display the attributes and value of each NAME
[-+]r make NAMEs readonly (removing with +r is valid syntax, but not possible)
[-+]t make NAMEs have the "trace" attribute (effective only for functions)
[-+]u convert NAMEs to upper case on assignment (makes sure the variable contains only upper case letters)
[-+]x make NAMEs exported

Return status

Status Reason
0 no error
!= 0 invalid option
!= 0 invalid variable name given
!= 0 attempt to define a function using -f
!= 0 assignment to a readonly variable
!= 0 removing the readonly-attribute from a readonly variable
!= 0 assignment to an array variable without the compound assignment syntax (array=(…))
!= 0 attempt to use +a to "destroy" an array
!= 0 attemt to display a non-existent function with -f

Display defined functions

declare -f can be used to display all defined functions…

$ declare -f
foo () 
    echo "FOO is BAR"
world () 
    echo "Hello World!"
…or just a specific defined function.
$ declare -f foo
foo () 
    echo "FOO is BAR"

  • declare is not specified by POSIX®
  • declare is unique to Bash and totally non-portable with the possible exception of Zsh with Bash compatibility. Though the documentation marks the synonym typeset as obsolete, AFAICT this isn't fully justified. All other Korn-like shells use typeset, so it probably isn't going away any time soon. Unfortunately, being a non-standard builtin, not all shared features have compatible option flags even though Bash's available typeset features are almost a proper subset of ksh's. Bash of course lacks all floating-point related options. Additionally, Bash arrays must be homogeneous datatypes whereas ksh93 compound variables are not necessarily, which means declare cannot be used to set the type of an individual element or used within the compound-assignment syntax. For example, declare -ia creates an indexed array whose elements have the integer attribute. In both shells, typeset creates locally scoped variables when used within a function, however, ksh lacks a local builtin, and has no equivalent to the -g option for overriding this behavior.
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  • commands/builtin/declare.1320044735.txt
  • Last modified: 2011/10/31 07:05
  • by ormaaj