The difference between cd - vs cd ~-

pfreitag profile image Pete Freitag Originally published at petefreitag.com ・1 min read

The other day I posted one of my old (from 16 years ago) blog entries on twitter, Backtracking with Bash which shows a cool trick you can use to go to the directory you were previously in using cd ~- for example:

$ cd /var
$ cd /etc
$ cd ~-
$ pwd

Ryan Guill pointed out that cd - also works, so what is the difference between cd ~- and cd -?

$ cd /var
$ cd /etc
$ cd -
$ pwd

So what is the difference?

The biggest difference between cd ~- and cd - is that ~- can be used in any command because it is part of the shells tilde expansion. The - shortcut can only be used with the cd command.

So for example if your directory was previously /var/log/apache2 and you want to tail the access_log file in there you can just tail ~-/access_log

$ cd /var/log/apache2
$ cd /etc
$ tail ~-/access_log
It Works...
$ tail -/access_log
tail: illegal option -- /

The second difference is that cd - will print the directory it changed to out to standard output, and cd ~- just changes directories without printing anything.

Cool trick eh?

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Pete Freitag


A developer focused on CFML & web application security


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You can also do git checkout - to switch to the previous branch. I use that one all the time.


TIL. That's pretty sweet-o neat-o.


Cool, didn't know about this one. And nicely explained with examples.