Do Bash Support Floating Point Math

Shell Programming

As a technical writer, I frequently encounter questions about the capabilities of programming languages. One common query is whether Bash supports floating point math. Let’s dive into the details of this topic.

Understanding Bash and Floating Point Math

Bash, as a shell and command language, is primarily designed for executing commands. While it excels at string manipulation, file operations, and running system commands, it lacks native support for floating point mathematics.

When attempting to perform floating point calculations in Bash, you might encounter unexpected results or errors due to its limited arithmetic capabilities.

Workarounds and Alternatives

Despite its limitations, there are workarounds to perform floating point math in Bash. One common approach involves utilizing external programs or commands that support floating point arithmetic, such as awk, bc, or expr.

Using External Programs

For example, the bc command-line calculator can be employed to perform precise floating point calculations within a Bash script. By leveraging the capabilities of external programs, developers can overcome Bash’s inherent constraints and achieve the desired mathematical outcomes.

Personal Experience

During my own scripting endeavors, I’ve encountered situations where Bash’s lack of native floating point support posed a challenge. However, leveraging external programs such as bc enabled me to accomplish complex calculations within my Bash scripts.


While Bash may not directly support floating point math, resourceful developers can employ external commands and programs to achieve the desired outcomes. Understanding these workarounds is crucial for effectively leveraging Bash in scenarios that require floating point calculations.