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Unix date command

The Unix date command displays the time and date. The super-user can use it to set the system clock.



With no options, the date command displays the current date and time, including the abbreviated day name, abbreviated month name, day of the month, the time separated by colons, the timezone name, and the year. For example:

Fri Jul 27 14:12:06 EDT 2007

Note that the implementation of the date command differs between Unix flavors. Specifically the GNU coreutils based command is much different than other POSIX implementations.


To format a date provide a string beginning with + .

Format specifiers (format string starts starts with +)
Specifier Description Values/Example
%a weekday, abbreviated Sun
%A weekday, full Sunday
%d day of the month (dd), zero padded 17
%e day of the month (dd) 17
%j day of year, zero padded 000-366
%u day of week starting with Monday (1), i.e. mtwtfss 7
%w day of week starting with Sunday (0), i.e. smtwtfs 0
%U week number Sunday as first day of week 01–53
%W week number Monday as first day of week 01–53
%V week of the year 01–53
%m mm month 01
%h Mon Jan
%b Mon, locale's abbreviated Jan
%B locale's full month, variable length January
%y yy two digit year 00–99
%Y ccyy year 2010
%g 2-digit year corresponding to the %V week number
%G 4-digit year corresponding to the %V week number
%C cc century 00–99
%D mm/dd/yy 01/17/10
%x locale's date representation (mm/dd/yy) 01/17/2010
%F %Y-%m-%d 2010-01-17
%l (Lowercase L) hour (12 hour clock) 10
%I (Uppercase I) hour (12 hour clock) zero padded 10
%k hour (24 hour clock) 10
%H hour (24 hour clock) zero padded 10
%p locale's upper case AM or PM (blank in many locales) AM
%P locale's lower case am or pm (really!) am
%M MM minutes 48
%s seconds since 00:00:00 1970-01-01 UTC (Unix epoch) 1263725321
%S SS second 00–60
(The 60 is necessary to accommodate a leap second)
%N nanoseconds 000000000–999999999
%r hours, minutes, seconds (12-hour clock) 10:48:41 AM
%R hours, minutes (24 hour clock) hh:mm e.g. 10:48
%T hours, minutes, seconds (24-hour clock) 10:48:41
%X locale's time representation (%H:%M:%S)
Date and Time
%c locale's date and time Sat Nov 04 12:02:33 EST 1989
Time zone
%z -zzzz RFC-822 style numeric timezone -0500
%Z time zone (e.g., EDT) nothing if no time zone is determinable EST

literals: %n newline      %% percent      %t horizontal tab

By default, date pads numeric fields with zeroes.

GNU date, but not BSD date, recognizes - (hyphen) do not pad the field and _ (underscore) pad the field with spaces between % and a numeric directive.

TZ Specifies the timezone, unless overridden by command line parameters. If neither is specified, the setting from /etc/localtime is used.


-d, -de=string display time described by string, not now.

-e=datefile like de once for each line of datefile

-s, --set=string set time described by string

-n don't synchronize the clocks on groups of machines using the utility timed(8). By default, if timed is running, date will set the time on all of the machines in the local group. -n inhibites that.

-u Display or set the date in UTC (universal) time.

date [-u|--utc|--universal] [mmddHHMM[[cc]yy].SS The only valid option for the this form specifies Coordinated Universal Time.

-u GMT ex: Sat Feb 5 14:49:42 GMT 2005

--utc, --universal Coordinated Universal Time local TZ Sat Feb 5 09:49:59 EST 2005

-ITIMESPEC, --iso-8601[=TIMESPEC] output date/time in ISO 8601 format. TIMESPEC=date for date only, hours, minutes, or seconds for date and time to the indicated precision.

--iso-8601 without TIMESPEC defaults to `date'.

-R, --rfc-822 output RFC-822 compliant date string, example: Wed, 16 Dec 2009 15:18:11 +0100


The Single Unix Specification (SUS) mandates only one option: -u, where the date and time is printed as if the timezone was UTC+0. Other Unix and Unix-like systems provide extra options.


date "+%m/%d/%y" 
date "+%Y%m%d"

To assign the time to a variable

START=`date '+%r'`
echo $START
03:06:02 PM
sleep 5
echo $START
03:06:02 PM

N.B. the variable has the time when it was assigned.

Yesterday assigned to variable

DATE=$(date -d yesterday +"%Y%m%d")
echo $DATE

To show the time in a different timezone, the TZ environment variable is read, Timezone types is found in /usr/share/zoneinfo

export TZ=GMT; echo "GMT:               `date +\"%F %R (%Z)\"`"
GMT:               2008-10-31 12:30 (GMT)
export TZ=Europe/Stockholm; echo "Stockholm:    `date +\"%F %R (%Z)\"`"
Stockholm:    2008-10-31 13:30 (CET)
export TZ=Asia/Kuala_Lumpur; echo "Kuala Lumpur:        `date +\"%F %R (%Z)\"`"
Kuala Lumpur:        2008-10-31 20:30 (MYT)
export TZ=US/Central; echo "Dallas:             `date +\"%F %R (%Z)\"`"
Dallas:             2008-10-31 07:30 (CDT)
export TZ=$OLDTZ

Other valid time strings

date +"%Y%m%d" -d sunday # GNU date

date +"%Y%m%d" -d last-sunday # GNU date

date +"%Y%m%d" -d last-week # GNU date
date -v -1m +"%Y%m%d" # BSD date

date +"%Y%m%d" -d last-month # GNU date
date -v -1w +"%Y%m%d" # BSD date

date +"%Y%m%d" -d last-year # GNU date
date -v -1y +"%Y%m%d" # BSD date

date +"%Y%m%d" -d next-week # GNU date
date -v 1w +"%Y%m%d" # BSD date

date +"%Y%m%d" -d next-month # GNU date
date -v 1m +"%Y%m%d" # BSD date

date +"%Y%m%d" -d next-year # GNU date
date -v 1y +"%Y%m%d" # BSD date

To show the time in seconds since 1970-01-01 (Unix epoch):

date +"%s" -d "Fri Apr 24 13:14:39 CDT 2009"

To convert Unix epoch time (seconds since 1970-01-01) to a human readable format:

date -d "UTC 1970-01-01 1240596879 secs"
Fri Apr 24 13:14:39 CDT 2009


date -ud @1000000000
Sun Sep  9 01:46:40 UTC 2001

Setting the date

The XSI extension to the SUS specifies that the date command can also be used to set the date. The new date is specified as an option to date in the format MMddhhmm[[cc]yy], where MM specifies the two-digit numeric month, dd specifies the two-digit numeric day, hh specifies the two-digit numeric hour, mm specifies the two-digit numeric minutes. Optionally cc specifies the first two digits of the year, and yy specifies the last two digits of the year.

Other Unix and Unix-like systems may set different options or date formats for date, for example, on some systems to set the current date and time to September 8, 2004 01:22 you type:

date --set="20040908 01:22"

See also

External links

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