What is the meaning of the following line in a variable in bash?

  • 1
    @chaos Please do not edit the question to match your answer better ;-).
    – Pilot6
    Oct 6, 2015 at 14:28
  • @Pilot6 I haven't changed the meaning. Or do I understand something wrong? I made it better to find (title) and more readable.. BTW : has also other meanings, it's a bash builtin command, for example. I wanted to differ from that, because the question is obviously not about that. What the user means is the : operator inside a variable name. I'm sorry, I don't want to annoy somebody, but your rollback makes no sense and should be reversed, but I don't want an edit-war here. Furthermore it's bash and scripting specific so why remove those tags?
    – chaos
    Oct 6, 2015 at 14:43
  • You removed TEMP and VAR variables and changed the question the way that other answers lost the meaning.
    – Pilot6
    Oct 6, 2015 at 14:46
  • @Pilot6 In my answer I don't refer to a VAR variable. But, however, you're free to change that one thing back. I wanted to make the question more general, less specific. It was never meant to sabotage other answers.
    – chaos
    Oct 6, 2015 at 14:48
  • 2
    @SnakeDoc no, it's on-topic all right
    – muru
    Oct 6, 2015 at 20:57

3 Answers 3


This is variable expansion and works like this (notice this is only bash and ksh specific and will not work in a POSIX shell):

$ x=1234567890
$ echo ${x:3}
$ echo ${x:7}
$ echo ${x:3:5}

  • ${var:pos} means that the variable var is expanded, starting from offset pos.
  • ${var:pos:len} means that the variable var is expanded, starting from offset pos with length len.
  • Woks in zsh too
    – kos
    Oct 6, 2015 at 12:38
  • 2
    @kos It's not worth mentioning, because everything works in zsh =) I made a diet script in zsh and lost 10kg in 1 week.
    – chaos
    Oct 6, 2015 at 12:45
  • zsh for sure makes you dumber at typing paths when you're not using it :)
    – kos
    Oct 6, 2015 at 12:57
  • 1
    @kos Hehe, It's a bit like jquery: meta.stackexchange.com/a/19492
    – chaos
    Oct 6, 2015 at 13:00
  • 1
    Ha, I love how the only answer attempting to really answer the question got -2 because of "not enough jQuery"! :)
    – kos
    Oct 6, 2015 at 13:05

in bash it cuts away the first 3 characters of a (string) variable:

$ VAR="hello world"
$ echo ${VAR:3}
lo world

have a look at 'substring extraction' here: http://www.tldp.org/LDP/abs/html/string-manipulation.html .


This operator cuts off the first 3 characters of variable TEMP and assigns the rest to variable VAR.

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