caller - Linux


The caller command in Linux is used primarily in shell scripting and debugging to print the context of any active subroutine call (a shell function, a shell script, or a sourced script). It reports the line number, subroutine name, and the source file of a script from which it is called. This tool is very useful for developers and system administrators for tracing and debugging shell scripts.


The basic syntax of caller is as follows:

caller [EXPR]
  • EXPR: An optional expression that specifies how many call frames to go back before displaying the stack trace. If not specified, caller will display the immediate calling function and its line number.


caller does not have multiple options or flags. It primarily uses an optional numeric argument to trace back through the call stack:

  • EXPR: When used, this numeric argument specifies the number of frames to go back in the call history. The default is 0, which refers to the current subroutine call.


  1. Basic Usage:
    Display information about the current context:


    Output might be 42 main /home/user/ where 42 is the line number, main is the function name, and /home/user/ is the file name.

  2. Using EXPR:
    To trace back two call frames:

    caller 2

    This will show the caller of the caller of the current function (two levels up in the call stack).

Common Issues

  • No Output in Root Shell: caller will not produce an output if not called within a function or a source file. It’s primarily designed to be used within scripts or functions.
  • Incorrect Frame Count: Providing a frame count number higher than the available call stack can return no result. Always ensure the frame count aligns with the call stack depth.


caller can be effectively combined with conditional statements or loops within scripts to dynamically check and debug the function call flows:

Example Script for Debugging Stack Trace:

trace_function() {
    local i=0
    while caller $i; do

my_function() {

another_function() {


This script defines multiple functions and uses caller within a loop to print a full stack trace when another_function is called.

  • debug: Not a specific command, but a concept in many languages for troubleshooting and analyzing scripts.
  • echo: Often used in scripts together with caller to print more detailed debug information.

For deeper inspection of scripts and more sophisticated debugging tools, you may also consult debugging tools like bashdb which provides a full debugger for bash scripts.

For more comprehensive details on bash scripting and commands, refer to the GNU Bash manual: GNU Bash Manual.