local - Linux


The local command in Linux is used within shell scripts and functions to create variables with local scope. It ensures that the variable can only be accessed and modified within the block of code in which it’s declared, helping prevent side effects in other parts of the script.


The basic syntax of the local command is as follows:

local [option] name[=value] ...
  • name: The name of the variable.
  • value: The value assigned to the variable (optional).

Variables can be declared without assigning a value initially.


local does not have options in the traditional sense as seen with other Linux commands but supports attribute flags that affect variable behavior:

  • -r: Declare the variable as readonly.
  • -i: The variable is treated as an integer; arithmetic operations are allowed on this variable.
  • -a: Declare the variable as an array.
  • -A: Declare the variable as an associative array (requires Bash 4 or later).


  1. Basic Local Variable Declaration:
    Declare a local simple variable within a function:

    function myFunc() {
        local myVar="Hello"
        echo $myVar
  2. Integer Variable:
    Using local with integer treatment:

    function addNumbers() {
        local -i sum=0
        echo $sum
  3. Array Declaration:
    Declaring local arrays:

    function listFiles() {
        local -a files=(*)
        echo "${files[@]}"

Common Issues

  • Scope Confusion: Users might forget that the local variable only exists within the function, leading to “variable not found” errors when accessed outside.
  • Modification of Read-only Variable: Attempting to modify a read-only (-r) variable will result in errors.

Ensure clear understanding and comments in scripts about variable scope. Do not attempt to modify read-only variables after they are set.


local can be effectively combined with shell conditionals and loops to manage local data safely:

function processNumbers() {
    local i
    for i in {1..10}; do
        local square=$((i * i))
        echo "Square of $i is $square"

This script uses local variables to avoid affecting the outer scope with temporary calculations.

  • export: Used to make variables available to child processes (the opposite of localizing to a function).
  • declare: Similar to local but used mostly outside functions to set variable properties.

For more information about shell scripting and variable management, consult the bash man page with the command: man bash and refer to online guides such as the GNU Bash Reference Manual.