I typed cd - in terminal by mistake today, and I got an error saying:

bash: cd: OLDPWD not set

And unfortunately, man cd doesn't exist.

No manual entry for cd

What does it actually do?

  • 3
    cd is a Bash builtin. It is therefore documented in man bash-builtins, instead of its own page. This holds true for all other Bash builtins. You can tell it's a builtin because of the bash: in front of the error message. – kiri Mar 15 '14 at 11:26

cd - switches between the old and new present working directories.

avinash@avinash-Lenovo-IdeaPad-Z500:~$ cd -
bash: cd: OLDPWD not set
avinash@avinash-Lenovo-IdeaPad-Z500:~$ cd ~/Desktop
avinash@avinash-Lenovo-IdeaPad-Z500:~/Desktop$ pwd
avinash@avinash-Lenovo-IdeaPad-Z500:~/Desktop$ cd -

See also,

avinash@avinash-Lenovo-IdeaPad-Z500:~$ echo $OLDPWD

avinash@avinash-Lenovo-IdeaPad-Z500:~$ cd ~/Desktop
avinash@avinash-Lenovo-IdeaPad-Z500:~/Desktop$ echo $OLDPWD
avinash@avinash-Lenovo-IdeaPad-Z500:~/Desktop$ cd d
avinash@avinash-Lenovo-IdeaPad-Z500:~/Desktop/d$ echo $OLDPWD

The $OLDPWD variable stores the path of previous present working directory.


Avinash Raj's answer is completely correct but as for the manual entry, you can get the POSIX manual pages and then man cd will work:

sudo apt-get install manpages-posix
man cd

The bit that tells you all this is the OPERANDS section:

-      When a hyphen is used as the operand, this shall be equivalent to the command:

       cd "$OLDPWD" && pwd

which changes to the previous working directory and then writes its name.

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