rename - Linux


The rename command in Linux is used to rename files or directories according to a specified pattern or set of rules. It is especially powerful in batch processing scenarios where multiple files need to be renamed under consistent rules, such as replacing or removing specific characters, adding prefixes or suffixes, or changing file name cases.


The general syntax for the rename command is:

rename [options] expression replacement file...
  • expression: This is the search pattern that determines which part of the file names to match.
  • replacement: This part specifies what to replace the matched pattern with.
  • file...: A list of files to be renamed.


  • -v, –verbose: Displays detailed output showing what changes are being made. This is useful for monitoring the command’s activity.
  • -n, –no-act: Shows what changes would be made but does not actually make any changes. This flag is useful for testing the command without risking data.
  • -f, –force: Forces the overwrite of existing files without prompting for confirmation.
  • -s, –symlinks: Treats symbolic links like normal files.
  • -h, –help: Displays help information about the rename command.


  1. Simple Rename: Renaming all .txt files to .bak:
    rename 's/\.txt$/.bak/' *.txt
  2. Verbose Output: Previewing changes without making them (dry run):
    rename -n 's/test/newtest/' *
  3. Complex Pattern: Capitalizing all filenames:
    rename 'y/a-z/A-Z/' *

Common Issues

  • Pattern Matching Issues: Users might specify incorrect patterns leading to no files being renamed, or worse, wrong files being changed. Double-checking the pattern in a contained directory with -n flag can prevent this.
  • Overwriting Files: Accidentally overwriting files when multiple source files rename to a common target. Use the -n flag for a dry run before executing the command.


rename can be combined with other tools such as find for more complex file management tasks:

find . -type f -name '*.txt' -exec rename 's/\.txt$/.bak/' {} +

This command finds all .txt files in the current directory and subdirectories, renaming them to .bak.

  • mv: Basic command to move or rename files.
  • sed: Stream editor, can be used in renaming if combined in scripts.
  • awk: Another powerful text processing tool useful in complex renaming scripts.

For more information on usage and options, refer to the man rename page or the online documentation available at GNU or Linux repository sites.