The date command displays or sets the system date. It is most commonly used to print the date and time in different formats and calculate future and past dates.
In this tutorial, we’ll cover the basics of the date command.
Using the Linux date Command
The syntax for the
date command is as follows:
date [OPTION]... [+FORMAT]
To display the current system time and date using the default formatting, invoke the command without any options:
The output will include the day of the week, month, day of the month, time, timezone, and year:
Sat Jun 1 14:31:01 CEST 2019
Date Formatting Options
The output of
date can be formatted with a sequence of format control characters preceded by a
+ sign. The format controls start with the
% symbol and are substituted by their values.
date +"Year: %Y, Month: %m, Day: %d"
%Y character will be replaced with the year,
%m with month and
%d with the day of the month:
Year: 2019, Month: 06, Day: 02
Here is another example:
date "+DATE: %D%nTIME: %T"
DATE: 06/02/19 TIME: 01:47:04
Below is a small list of the some of the most common formatting characters:
%a- Locale’s abbreviated short weekday name (e.g. Mon)
%A- Locale’s abbreviated full weekday name (e.g. Monday)
%b- Locale’s abbreviated short month name (e.g. Jan)
%B- Locale’s abbreviated long month name (e.g. January)
%d- Day of month (e.g., 01)
%H- Hour (00..23)
%I- Hour (01..12)
%j- Day of year (001..366)
%m- Month (01..12)
%M- Minute (00..59)
%S- Second (00..60)
%u- Day of week (1..7)
%Y- Full year (e.g. 2019)
To get a full list of all formatting options run
date --help or
man date in your terminal.
-d option allows you to operate on a specific date. You can specify the date as a human-readable date string like below:
date -d "2010-02-07 12:10:53"
Sun Feb 7 12:10:53 CET 2010
Using the custom formatting:
date -d '16 Dec 1974' +'%A, %d %B %Y'
Monday, 16 December 1974
The date string can also accept values such as “tomorrow”, “friday”, “last friday” “next friday”, “next month”, “next week” ..etc.
date -d "last week"
Sat May 25 14:31:42 CEST 2019
You can also use the date string option to show your local time for different timezones. For example, to show the local time for 6:30AM next Monday on the Australian east coast, you would type:
date -d 'TZ="Australia/Sydney" 06:30 next Monday'
Sun Jun 2 22:30:00 CEST 2019
Override the Timezone
For example, to show the Melbourne, Aus time, you would type:
Sat Jun 1 22:35:10 AEST 2019
To list all available time zones, you can either list the files in the
/usr/share/zoneinfo directory or use the
timedatectl list-timezones command.
date command can be used as an Epoch converter. Epoch, or Unix timestamps, is the number of seconds that have elapsed since January 1, 1970 at 00:00:00 UTC.
To print the number of the seconds from the epoch to the current day use the
%s format control:
To convert seconds since the epoch to date, set the seconds as a date string prefixed with
date -d @1234567890
Sat Feb 14 00:31:30 CET 2009
Using date with Other Commands
date command is most frequently used to create filenames that contain the current time and date.
The command below will create a Mysql backup file in the following format
mysqldump database_name > database_name-$(date +%Y%m%d).sql
You can also use the
date command in your shell scripts. In the example below we are assigning the output of
date to the
date_now=$(date "+%F-%H-%M-%S") echo $date_now
Display the Last Modification Time of a File
date command with the
-r option shows the last modification time of a file. For example:
date -r /etc/hosts
Tue Jul 24 11:11:48 CEST 2018
If you want to modify the file timestamp, use the
Set the System Time and Date
Setting the system time and date manually with the
date command is usually not recommended because on most Linux distributions the system clock is synchronized using the
ntp or the
However, if you want to set the system clock manually, you can use the
--set= option. For example, if you want to set the date and time to 5:30pm, June 01, 2019, you would type:
date --set="20190601 17:30"
By now you should have a good understanding of how to use the Linux date command.
If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to leave a comment.