rmdir - Man Page

remove directories


This manual page is part of the POSIX Programmer's Manual. The Linux implementation of this interface may differ (consult the corresponding Linux manual page for details of Linux behavior), or the interface may not be implemented on Linux.


rmdir [-p] dir...


The rmdir utility shall remove the directory entry specified by each dir operand.

For each dir operand, the rmdir utility shall perform actions equivalent to the rmdir() function called with the dir operand as its only argument.

Directories shall be processed in the order specified. If a directory and a subdirectory of that directory are specified in a single invocation of the rmdir utility, the application shall specify the subdirectory before the parent directory so that the parent directory will be empty when the rmdir utility tries to remove it.


The rmdir utility shall conform to the Base Definitions volume of POSIX.1-2017, Section 12.2, Utility Syntax Guidelines.

The following option shall be supported:


Remove all directories in a pathname. For each dir operand:

  1. The directory entry it names shall be removed.
  2. If the dir operand includes more than one pathname component, effects equivalent to the following command shall occur:

    rmdir -p $(dirname dir)


The following operand shall be supported:


A pathname of an empty directory to be removed.


Not used.

Input Files


Environment Variables

The following environment variables shall affect the execution of rmdir:


Provide a default value for the internationalization variables that are unset or null. (See the Base Definitions volume of POSIX.1-2017, Section 8.2, Internationalization Variables for the precedence of internationalization variables used to determine the values of locale categories.)


If set to a non-empty string value, override the values of all the other internationalization variables.


Determine the locale for the interpretation of sequences of bytes of text data as characters (for example, single-byte as opposed to multi-byte characters in arguments).


Determine the locale that should be used to affect the format and contents of diagnostic messages written to standard error.


Determine the location of message catalogs for the processing of LC_MESSAGES.

Asynchronous Events



Not used.


The standard error shall be used only for diagnostic messages.

Output Files


Extended Description


Exit Status

The following exit values shall be returned:


Each directory entry specified by a dir operand was removed successfully.


An error occurred.

Consequences of Errors


The following sections are informative.

Application Usage

The definition of an empty directory is one that contains, at most, directory entries for dot and dot-dot.


If a directory a in the current directory is empty except it contains a directory b and a/b is empty except it contains a directory c:

rmdir -p a/b/c

removes all three directories.


On historical System V systems, the -p option also caused a message to be written to the standard output. The message indicated whether the whole path was removed or whether part of the path remained for some reason. The Stderr section requires this diagnostic when the entire path specified by a dir operand is not removed, but does not allow the status message reporting success to be written as a diagnostic.

The rmdir utility on System V also included a -s option that suppressed the informational message output by the -p option. This option has been omitted because the informational message is not specified by this volume of POSIX.1-2017.

Future Directions


See Also


The Base Definitions volume of POSIX.1-2017, Chapter 8, Environment Variables, Section 12.2, Utility Syntax Guidelines

The System Interfaces volume of POSIX.1-2017, remove(), rmdir(), unlink()

Referenced By

mkdir(1p), rm(1p).

2017 IEEE/The Open Group POSIX Programmer's Manual