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Can You Explain Linux Directory Terminology?

Directory Lingo

To navigate your Linux file system, there are several terms you should understand.

Current directory The directory you are in at a given time, sometimes called the current working directory. The pwd (print working directory) command will tell you the name of the current directory. Subdirectory A directory within the current directory.

Parent directory The directory above the current one. Every directory except the top level has a parent. If you are in the /usr/spool directory, then /usr is the parent.

Home directory A user's personal directory. For example, if your user name is hermie, your home directory is /home/hermie. The user normally has complete control over all files stored in directories beneath the home directory. Exception: If the root user copies a file to your home directory, root still owns and controls that file.

Root directory The top of the file system, denoted by a slash. Only subdirectories appear below this directory. Don't confuse this with /root, the home directory for the root user. When speaking, always refer to / as "the root directory" and to /root as "slash root."

Absolute file name A file name that is valid no matter where you are in the file hierarchy. In practice, this means it must start with a slash and specify the full path to the file. For example, /home/hermie/recipes/sludge_fudge is an absolute file name, but sludge_fudge is not.

Relative file name A file name that specifies a file relative to the current directory. For example, if you were in hermie's home directory, /home/hermie/, you would reference that healthy fudge recipe as recipes/sludge_fudge.

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Comments - most recent first
(Please feel free to answer questions posted by others!)

bob smith     (20 Feb 2013, 13:04)
Why does cd /.. not produce a "not found" error? Is there any documentation explaining this decision? Works the same on unix and windows.
Pete     (28 Aug 2011, 00:06)

/ is used to represent the root directory.
~ is used to represent your home directory
tarun     (29 Jun 2011, 14:22)
hello sir thanks for this information.. kindly tell me the basics in details of directories..
aqid     (06 Oct 2010, 05:47)
which symbol is used to represent the root directory???
Bob Rankin     (21 Aug 2010, 17:38)
@ganesh - No difference.
ganesh     (19 Aug 2010, 07:19)
What is the difference between /home and /home/
hpal     (20 May 2010, 22:15)
Guys you don't have to be confused on the destination of your directory you will be, when using (.) or (..)

(.) Simply denotes the current folder/directory
(..) Simply denotes the parent directory
/ When use without . or .. as prefix. It means root directory or folder

As explained on other section on this site, each folder represents a branch of a tree, and the root itself is the tree.

Files are treated as leaves.

That is why using multiple combination of ../ will move back to the each parent, depending on the number of times being called. And if using cd ../ with no parent will always go to the root.

Kurt     (22 Mar 2010, 21:23)
cd../.. gives an error message
cd ../.. moves back two places to home
cd ../../.. moves back three places
cd ../../../.. still only moves back three places because we can't go back any further
J     (09 Mar 2010, 12:45)
No.....I think that now the directory should be home/jvale04922.
Bob Rankin     (02 Mar 2010, 05:19)
A trick question! You're still in the same directory. Do you know why?
joey     (01 Mar 2010, 09:22)
if my current directory is: $ pwd home/jvale04922/irm230 and i excecute the command $ cd../.. What directory am i in now?

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