Split string on delimiter in Bash

David Y.

The Problem

I have the following string stored in a Bash variable:

string="Doe, Jane;Smith, John;Bloggs, Joe"

How can I split this string on the ; delimiter in Bash?

The Solution

To split the string in this variable, we can temporarily set Bash’s input field separator variable (IFS) to the desired delimiter while reparsing it into an array read -ra. For example:

string="Doe, Jane;Smith, John;Bloggs, Joe" IFS=";" read -ra names <<<"$string" for name in "${names[@]}"; do echo "$name" done

This code will produce the following output:

Doe, Jane Smith, John Bloggs, Joe

In our read command, the -a flag creates an array, and the -r flag prevents backslashes from escaping any characters in the string.

A simpler way to achieve this would be to use the cut command, but this requires us to know the number of elements in the string, which may not be possible in all cases. The code below produces the same output using cut instead of IFS:

string="Doe, Jane;Smith, John;Bloggs, Joe" for index in {1..3}; do echo "$string" | cut -d ";" -f $index done

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