The trap built-in sets or prints signal handlers.


  • trap

  • trap action signal

  • trap signal_number [signal…]

  • trap -p [signal…]


The trap built-in sets or prints actions that are taken when the shell receives signals. (Those actions are called traps.)

When executed with action and one or more signals, the built-in sets the traps for signals to action. If the shell receives one of the signals, the action will be taken.

If the first operand is signal_number instead of action, the built-in resets the traps for signal_number and signals as if action was -.

When executed with the -p (--print) option or with no operands, the built-in prints currently set traps to the standard output in a format that can be executed as commands that restore the current traps. If one or more signals are specified, only those signals are printed. Otherwise, all signals with non-default actions are printed. (In some situations, however, the built-in may print previous trap settings instead of the current. See notes below.)



Print current trap settings.



An action that will be taken when signal is received.

If action is a single hyphen (-), the action is reset to the default action that is defined by the operating system. If action is an empty string, the signal is ignored on receipt. Otherwise, action is treated as a command string: the string is parsed and executed as commands when the signal is received. (If a signal is received while a command is being executed, the action is taken just after the command finishes.)


The number or name of a signal.

If signal is number 0 or name EXIT, it is treated as a special imaginary signal that is always received when the shell exits. The action set for this signal is taken when the shell exits normally.


This is like signal, but must be a number.

Exit status

The exit status of the trap built-in is zero unless there is any error.


The trap built-in is a special built-in.

The POSIX standard defines no options for the trap built-in; the built-in accepts no options in the POSIXly-correct mode.

The POSIX standard requires that signal names must be specified without the SIG-prefix, like INT and QUIT. As an extension, yash accepts SIG-prefixed names like SIGINT and SIGQUIT and treats signal names case-insensitively.

Reusing output of the built-in

Output of the trap built-in can be saved in a variable, which can be later executed by the eval built-in to restore the traps.

trap '...' INT
eval "$saved_traps"

There are some tricks behind the scenes to allow this idiom. You use a command substitution to save the output of the trap built-in in the variable. The command substitution is executed in a subshell. The subshell resets all traps (except ignored ones) at the beginning of itself. This seemingly would result in (almost) empty output from the built-in that would fail to restore the traps as expected.

To avoid that pitfall, POSIX requires the shell to follow one of the two options below:

  • If a command substitution just contains a single trap built-in, traps should not be reset when the subshell is started to execute the built-in; or

  • A subshell always resets the traps but remembers the previous traps. If the trap built-in is executed in the subshell but no other trap built-in has been executed to modify traps in the subshell, then the built-in should print the remembered traps.

Yash obeys the second.