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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

mv (short for move) is a Unix command that moves one or more files or directories from one place to another. The original filename or directory name is no longer accessible. The new filename may be same in another directory and/or a different filename. When the original and new files are on the same file system, mv will rename the file instead. Write permission is required on all directories being modified.


Conflicting existing file

When a filename is moved to an existing filename (in the same directory), the existing file is deleted. If the existing file is not writable but is in a directory that is writable, the mv command asks for confirmation ( if run from a terminal) before proceeding, unless the -f (force) option is used.

move versus copy and remove

Usually moving files within the same file system is not the same as copying and then removing the original. First a new link is added to the new directory then the original link is deleted. The data of file is not accessed. This is much it is faster than copy and remove. The file still has the same inode.

When moving files to a different file system, all files are copied and then all files are removed. If the copy fails (as in not enough space) none of the original files are removed and all of the copied files remain (and the volume remains full!). If the files are on one volume, an out of space condition cannot occur.

You cannot copy a file if you do not have read permissions, but you can move it if you have write permission to its old and new directories.

If you do not have write permission to a non-empty directory, you cannot delete this directory (since you cannot delete its contents); but you can move it.


Most versions[1] of mv support:

  • -h help by displaying additional options supported. Use man mv for details for the version on the system you are using.
  • -i interactively process, write a prompt to standard error before moving a file that would overwrite an existing file. If the response from the standard input begins with the character`y' or `Y', the move is attempted. (overrides previous -f or -n options.)
  • -n no overwriting of existing files. (overrides previous -f or -i options.)
  • -f force overwriting the destination (overrides previous -i or -n options).
  • -v verbose, shows filenames/directory names after they are moved.

Additional options (Use man mv for details):

  • -u update only when the original is newer than the destination or when the destination doesn't exist.
  • -b backup of existing destination using default ~ suffix.


mv myfile mynewfilename    renames a file
mv myfile otherfilename    renames a file and deletes the existing file "myfile"
mv myfile /myfile          moves 'myfile' from the current directory to the root directory
mv myfile dir/myfile       moves 'myfile' to 'dir/myfile' relative to the current directory
mv myfile dir              same as the previous command (the filename is implied to be the same)
mv myfile dir/myfile2      moves 'myfile' to dir and renames it to 'myfile2'
mv foo bar baz dir         moves multiple files to directory dir
mv --help                  shows a very concise help about the syntax of the command
man mv                     prints an extensive user manual for 'mv' in the terminal

In all cases, the file or files being moved or renamed can be a directory.

Note that when the command is called with two arguments (as mv name1 name2 or mv name1 /dir/name2), it can have three different effects, depending on whether name2 does not exist, is an existing file, or is an existing directory. If the user intends to refer to an existing directory, /. (or in some Unix versions / is sufficient) may be appended to the name to force the system to check this. To move a file to a new directory, the directory must be created first.

See also



Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also .mv, mv, mv., mV, MV, and M/V




  1. former symbol for mendelevium; now Md


  • Anagrams of mv
  • VM

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