I have a few questions. Some things are bothering me, and maybe if I can understand why they are a certain way, I can rest my mind a bit.

In Windows, about 95% of folder and file names make sense. They clearly describe their purpose.

On linux, the official User Manual, states the following:

  1. /bin and /sbin: Stores many essential system applications
  2. /etc: Stores System-wide configuration files.

My question is, Why are folder names so silly / stupid / weird / unrelated to their purpose?

Why would "essential system applications" be placed in a folder named after a thing that is used to hold unwanted things? (bin)

Why would "system-wide configuration files" be stored in a folder called "etc"?

  • 3
    "bin", probably standing for binary, is a file type. However I prefer this kind of names to prevent ordinary people from breaking their system -- when they don't understand they'll give up. Jul 20, 2014 at 9:50
  • 6
    They are probably such so that users may have to type less. I would personally prefer to type /sbin rather than /system\ binary(although there is auto-completion in BASH, but still) Jul 20, 2014 at 10:11
  • 5
    How does 'system32' folder in windows make sense to you??? And how does the name 'windows' itself make sense anyways? Jul 20, 2014 at 14:22
  • 1
    see askubuntu.com/questions/138547/…
    – Rinzwind
    Jul 20, 2014 at 15:26
  • 4
    Related: $ man hier
    – Pål GD
    Jul 20, 2014 at 16:05

3 Answers 3

  1. /bin stands for binaries, /sbin stands for system binaries
  2. etc stands for etcetera (this directory historically held everything that did not belong elsewhere)

You can read more here and here; and on Wikipedia.


Most of the directory names are not unrelated, but simply too short to be comprehensible without further knowledge. But this is not just a Linux issue. Other Unix-like systems as Apple's OS X for example or Solaris use the same weird names. And since you mentioned Windows... You just have to dig deeper. For example the hosts file for windows has this weird path:


There you have your unrelated "etc" again ;-)

For a quick overview over the role of the different Linux directory names take a look to this Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filesystem_Hierarchy_Standard

  • 3
    That /etc IS related to OUR /etc: they stem from the same origin ;)
    – Rinzwind
    Jul 20, 2014 at 15:27

bin first of all means binary, and despite it is also the different word bin nobody associated it to any bin but binary. It was always clean in the context of Unix. Also they were needed to use really shorts, preferably three-lettered words, when they were always typing a lot. As a compliance it is still there.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .