A previous answer mentions the command gio trash, which is fine as far as it goes. However, on server machines, there is no equivalent of a trash directory. I've written a Bash script that does the job; on (Ubuntu) desktop machines, it uses gio trash. (I've added
alias tt='move-to-trash' to my alias definitions file;
tt is a mnemonic for "to trash".) The script is tested to work; I use it all the time myself. Script updated on 2020-08-10.
# Teemu Leisti 2020-08-10
# This script moves the files given as arguments to the trash directory, if they
# are not already there. It works both on (Gnome) desktop and server hosts. (The
# gio command only exists for Gnome.)
# The script is intended as a command-line equivalent of deleting a file from a
# graphical file manager, which, in the usual case, moves the deleted file(s) to
# a built-in trash directory. On server hosts, the analogy is not perfect, as
# the script does not offer the functionality of restoring a trashed file to its
# original location, nor that of emptying the trash directory; rather, it offers
# an alternative to the 'rm' command, giving the user the peace of mind that
# they can still undo an unintended deletion before emptying the trash
# To determine whether it's running on a desktop host, the script tests for the
# existence of the gio command and of directory ~/.local/share/Trash. In case
# both exist, the script relies on the 'gio trash' command. Otherwise, it treats
# the host as a server.
# There is no built-in trash directory on server hosts, so the script creates
# directory ~/.Trash/, unless it already exists.
# The script appends a millisecond-resolution time stamp to all the files it
# moves to the trash directory, both to inform the user of the time of the
# deletion, and to avoid overwrites when moving a file to trash.
# The script will not choke on a nonexistent file. It outputs the final
# disposition of each argument: does not exist, was already in trash, or was
# moved to trash.
command -v gio > /dev/null 2>&1
if (( $? == 0 )) ; then
# Exit on using an uninitialized variable, and on a command returning an error.
# (The latter setting necessitates appending " || true" to those arithmetic
# calculations and other commands that can return 0, lest the shell interpret
# the result as signalling an error.)
if [[ -d ~/.local/share/Trash ]] && (( gio_command_exists == 1 )) ; then
if [[ -e $trash_dir_abspath ]] ; then
if [[ ! -d $trash_dir_abspath ]] ; then
echo "The file $trash_dir_abspath exists, but is not a directory. Exiting."
echo "Created directory $trash_dir_abspath"
for file in "$@" ; do
file_abspath=$(realpath -- "$file")
file_basename=$(basename -- "$file_abspath")
if [[ ! -e $file_abspath ]] ; then
echo "does not exist: $file_abspath"
elif [[ "$file_abspath" == "$trash_dir_abspath"* ]] ; then
echo "already in trash: $file_abspath"
if (( is_desktop == 1 )) ; then
gio trash "$file_abspath" || true
# The name of the moved file shall be the original name plus a
# millisecond-resolution timestamp.
while [[ -e "$move_to_abspath" ]] ; do
# Generate a new name with a new timestamp, as the previously
# generated one denoted an existing file.
# We're now almost certain that the file denoted by name
# $move_to_abspath does not exist. For that to be the case, an
# extremely unlikely race condition would have had to take place:
# some other process would have had to create a file with the name
# $move_to_abspath after the execution of the existence test above.
# However, to make absolute sure that moving the file to the trash
# directory will always be successful, we shall give the '-f'
# (force) flag to the 'mv' command.
/bin/mv -f "$file_abspath" "$move_to_abspath"
echo "moved to trash: $file_abspath"