enable - Linux


The enable command is used in Linux to enable and disable shell builtins. Typically integrated into various shell environments like Bash, it allows users to manipulate the availability of specific internal commands. This command is particularly useful in scripting and secure environment setups, where controlling available commands is necessary for safety or resource management.


enable [-a] [-dnps] [-f filename] [name ...]
  • The primary argument name refers to the shell builtins.
  • The command format specifies optional flags and parameters that control the behavior of the builtin commands.


  • -a: List all builtins showing whether or not each is enabled.
  • -d: Disable named builtins. They are no longer executed as builtins and are expected to be found in the system’s command path.
  • -n: Same as -d. It disables named builtins.
  • -p: Display output in a reusable format.
  • -s: Enable/disable only the POSIX special builtins.
  • -f filename: Load new builtins from the shared object filename.


  1. Listing All Builtins:

    enable -a

    This example will list all available builtins with their current status (enabled or disabled).

  2. Disabling a Builtin:

    enable -n cd

    This command disables the cd builtin, making it unavailable to execute as a builtin command.

  3. Enabling a Builtin:

    enable cd

    Re-enables cd, allowing it to be used again as a builtin.

  4. Loading New Builtins:

    enable -f /path/to/builtins.so mybuiltin

    Load the mybuiltin from a shared object located at /path/to/builtins.so.

Common Issues

  • Shared Object Compatibility: When loading new builtins using -f, make sure the shared object is compatible with your shell and architecture. Errors commonly arise from architecture mismatches or incorrect shared object formatting.
  • Disabling Essential Builtins: Disabling critical builtins like cd without proper planning might hinder script performance or system administration tasks.


Combine enable with other commands in scripts to dynamically control the command environment for security or performance reasons. For instance:

# Disable unnecessary builtins for the script duration
enable -n echo cd

# Script contents
# Re-enable them afterwards
enable echo cd
  • type: Shows whether a command is a builtin, function, file, or keyword.
  • command: Used to run a command with a direct PATH lookup, bypassing function lookup.

For more information, check out the official Bash documentation or the manual pages (man bash), which provide deeper insights into shell builtins and their management.