split - Linux


The split command in Linux is used to split a large file into smaller files. It is particularly useful for breaking down large datasets or logs into manageable chunks. The command can be customized to split files based on size or number of lines, making it versatile for various data processing tasks.


The basic syntax of the split command is:

  • INPUT: The name of the file to be split. If no INPUT is provided, split reads from standard input.
  • PREFIX: The prefix for the output files. If not specified, the default is ‘x’.


split offers several options to control its behavior:

  • -b, –bytes=SIZE: Split a file into pieces of size SIZE. The size can be followed by suffixes like K (for Kilobytes), M (for Megabytes), or G (for Gigabytes) for ease of use.
  • -l, –lines=NUMBER: Split the file into pieces with NUMBER of lines. Default is 1000 lines if not specified.
  • -a, –suffix-length=N: Generate output files with suffixes of length N. Default is 2.
  • –additional-suffix=SUFFIX: Append an additional SUFFIX to output files.
  • -d, –numeric-suffixes: Use numeric suffixes instead of alphabetic.
  • -x: Use hex suffixes starting from 0000.
  • –verbose: Print a diagnostic just before each output file is opened.


  1. Split a file into 10 MB chunks:
    split -b 10M filename
  2. Split a file into chunks of 1000 lines each:
    split -l 1000 filename
  3. Split a file with numeric suffixes and a custom prefix:
    split -d -a 4 --additional-suffix=.txt filename PREFIX

Common Issues

  • File Size Mismatch: Make sure the size suffix is correctly specified (K, M, G).
  • Prefix Collision: Using a common prefix can overwrite existing files. Choose unique prefixes for each task.


The split command can be integrated into shell scripts or combined with other commands:

cat largefile.log | split -l 500 - log_chunk_

This pipeline reads from a log file, splits every 500 lines, and names the output files starting with log_chunk_.

  • cat: Often used with split to read from files or concatenate split parts.
  • cksum: Useful for verifying the integrity of files that have been split and later reconstructed.
  • tar, gzip: Often files are split prior to compression or archiving.

For extensive documentation and additional examples, users are encouraged to check the man page (man split) or the GNU Coreutils online documentation.