Unset Bash Function Using “unset” Command [3 Examples]

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In bash scripting managing variables and functions is essential for maintaining a clean and organized environment. The unset command serves as a powerful tool to remove variables and function definitions and effectively clean their values and attributes. This article will dive into the process of removing or unsetting functions in bash scripting.

What is “unset” Command in Bash Scripting?

The unset command in Bash is used to unset or remove a variable or function. It allows you to delete the values and attributes of variables or functions, making them undefined or unset. This can be useful when you want to clear the value of a variable or remove a function definition from the current shell session.

How to Remove a Function Using the “unset” Command?

To remove a function using the unset command in Bash, you simply need to specify the name of the function you want to remove. Here’s the basic syntax:

unset -f function_name


  • unset: Command to unset or remove variables and functions from the shell environment.
  • -f: Option to specify the “unset” command to remove a function.
  • function_name: Name of the function that will be removed from the shell environment.

3 Practical Cases of Unsetting Bash Function

Removing shell functions is important for maintaining a clean and organized shell environment. It helps debug scripts, enhances security by eliminating potential vulnerabilities, and allows for dynamic script management. Removing unused functions improves script readability and reduces clutter in the shell environment. This article will go over three examples of using the bash unset function.

1. Unset a Bash Function

In bash scripting defining functions and later unsetting some of them is a common practice. Unsetting functions make the script more efficient. The following examples showcase how to unset or remove a shell function from a bash script:


# Define the function
greet_user() {
  echo "Hello, user!"

# Call the function

# Unset the function
unset -f greet_user
echo "After unsetting the function:"

# Attempt to call the function after unsetting

Here, the bash script first defines the greet_user() function to greet the user. Then it calls the function for function execution. Later it removes the function from the shell environment using the unset command. Then the script calls the greet_user() function again to check the existence of the function.

remove bash function using unset command in bash scripting

Here, after unsetting the function, the script could not find the function which was previously working.

2. Unset a Function After Task Completion

Removing a function after completing a specific task is a common practice in bash scripting to maintain script cleanliness. The following example defines a function to download a file. Then, after downloading a file with the function, unset the function:


# Function to download a file
download_file() {
  file_name=$(basename "$file_url")
  echo "Downloading file: $file_name"
  wget "$file_url"

# Main function to execute the script
main() {
  # URL of the file to download

  # Call the download function
  download_file "$file_url"

  # Unset the download function
  unset -f download_file
  echo "Download function unset"

# Call the main function

This Bash script defines a function called download_file() to download a file from a given URL using the wget command. In the main() function, a specific file URL is provided, and the download_file() function is called to download the file. After the download is complete, the unset -f download_file command is used to unset the download_file() function, effectively removing it from the shell environment. This ensures that the function is no longer available for use in the script or subsequent shell sessions.

unset function after its usage is done using unset command

Here, the script downloads a file and then unsets the download_file function.

3. Unset Empty Bash Function

The bash empty function is a function definition within a bash script that lacks any executable code within its body. It serves as a placeholder for defining functions that may not have any functionality at the moment but need to be outlined within the script structure. Sometimes unsetting an empty function is necessary to maintain the script’s cleanliness and efficiency. Here is how to remove the empty function from your bash script:


# Function to check if a number is even
is_even() {
  if [ $(($1 % 2)) -eq 0 ]; then
    echo "Even"
    echo "Odd"

# Empty function
empty_function() { :; }

# Function to detect and unset empty functions
unset_empty_functions() {
  for func in $(declare -F | cut -d' ' -f3); do
    if [ -z "$(declare -f $func)" ]; then
      unset -f $func

# Test the functions
echo "10 is even: $(is_even 10)"
echo "7 is even: $(is_even 7)"
echo "Empty function output $(empty_function)"

# Unset empty functions

The script defines three functions: is_even to determine if a number is even or odd, empty_function which does nothing and unset_empty_functions to detect and unset any empty functions automatically. The is_even function checks if a number is divisible by 2 and prints Even or Odd using the echo command. The unset _empty_functions function scans all defined functions and if any of the functions is empty then unset that function using the unset -f $func command. Next, it calls all three functions to demonstrate their functionalities.

remove empty function from script using unset command

The script initially checks the parity of two numbers, and then calls the empty function. Afterward, it removes the empty function using another function.


In conclusion, the “unset” command emerges as a fundamental component in Bash scripting offering the capability to manage variables and functions within the shell environment dynamically. Its versatility extends beyond simple script maintenance to facilitating efficient resource management, fortifying security measures, optimizing script performance, etc. I hope this article helps you in getting a solid idea about the process of unset function.

People Also Ask

Why do you need to remove a shell function?

Removing a shell function is necessary for several reasons. Firstly, it helps maintain a clean and organized shell environment by eliminating redundant or unused functions. Secondly, removing functions enhances security by reducing potential vulnerabilities in the system. Additionally, it aids in debugging scripts, as removing unused functions streamlines the codebase and makes it easier to identify errors.

How do I unset a function in Bash?

To unset a function in Bash, use the unset command followed by the -f option and the name of the function you want to remove. The overall syntax is unset -f function_name. This command effectively removes the specified function from the current shell environment. It clears the function definition, making it undefined and unavailable for subsequent use within the script and shell session.

What is unset in the bash script?

In bash scripting, the unset command is used to unset or remove variables and functions from the shell environment. It allows users to delete the values and attributes associated with variables or functions, rendering them undefined or unset. With the unset command, you can clear the value of a variable or remove a function definition effectively removing it from the current shell session.

What is set and unset in Linux?

In Linux, “set” and “unset” are commands used to manipulate shell variables and functions. The set command is primarily used to set or initialize variables, define functions, and configure shell options. Conversely, the unset command is used to unset or remove variables and functions from the shell environment. It enables users to delete the values and attributes associated with variables or functions. These commands are fundamental for managing shell environments and controlling script behavior in Linux systems.

What does unset do in bash?

In bash, the “unset” command is used to remove or unset variables and functions from the shell environment. It effectively deletes the values and attributes associated with variables or functions making them undefined or unset. When applied to variables the unset command removes their values and marks them as unset, rendering them inaccessible until they are reassigned. Similarly, when used with a function the unset command removes the function definition from the current shell session, preventing its invocation or execution.

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Ridoy Chandra Shil

Hello everyone. I am Ridoy Chandra Shil, currently working as a Linux Content Developer Executive at SOFTEKO. I am a Biomedical Engineering graduate from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. I am a science and tech enthusiast. In my free time, I read articles about new tech and watch documentaries on science-related topics. I am also a big fan of “The Big Bang Theory”. Read Full Bio

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