dirname - macOS


The dirname command in macOS is used to strip the last component from a file path, effectively returning the directory component. This command is useful in scripting and programming when you need to extract the parent directory path from a full path string.


The basic syntax of the dirname command is:

dirname [OPTION] NAME...
  • NAME…: One or more arguments specifying path strings.


The dirname command options include:

  • -z, --zero: End each output line with NUL, not newline. This is helpful when dealing with binary data or when integrating with commands that process NUL-separated paths.
  • --help: Display the help information and exit.
  • --version: Output version information and exit.

By default, dirname outputs the path with a newline character at the end. Using -z changes this behavior.


  1. Basic Usage:

    dirname /usr/local/bin/program


  2. Multiple Paths:

    dirname /a/b/c /x/y/z.txt /1/2/3/


  3. Using with NUL character:

    dirname -z /path/to/file/document.txt

    This outputs the directory path followed by a NUL character instead of a newline.

Common Issues

  • No Arguments: If no path is given, dirname might return . which represents the current directory.
  • Invalid Characters: Ensure the path does not contain invalid characters or syntax errors. Errors in path can cause unexpected outputs or failure in execution.


dirname can be integrated with other shell commands in scripts to handle file paths efficiently.

Example: Extract the directory of a log file and change into it:

cd $(dirname /var/log/apache2/error_log)

This command will change the current directory to the directory containing the Apache error log.

  • basename: Similar to dirname, but it strips the directory part and returns the filename part of the path.
  • Other File Handling Commands:
    • ls: List directory contents.
    • cd: Change the directory.

Further reading and additional details can be found in the official GNU Coreutils documentation.