git-symbolic-ref - Read, modify and delete symbolic refs
git symbolic-ref [-m <reason>] <name> <ref>
git symbolic-ref [-q] [--short] <name>
git symbolic-ref --delete [-q] <name>
Given one argument, reads which branch head the given symbolic ref refers to and
outputs its path, relative to the .git/
directory. Typically you would
as the <name> argument to see which branch your working
tree is on.
Given two arguments, creates or updates a symbolic ref <name> to point at
the given branch <ref>.
and an additional argument, deletes the given symbolic
A symbolic ref is a regular file that stores a string that begins with ref:
. For example, your .git/HEAD
is a regular file whose contents
is ref: refs/heads/master
Delete the symbolic ref <name>.
Do not issue an error message if the
<name> is not a symbolic ref but a detached HEAD; instead exit with
non-zero status silently.
When showing the value of <name> as a
symbolic ref, try to shorten the value, e.g. from refs/heads/master to
Update the reflog for <name> with
<reason>. This is valid only when creating or updating a symbolic
In the past, .git/HEAD
was a symbolic link pointing at
. When we wanted to switch to another branch, we did
ln -sf refs/heads/newbranch .git/HEAD
, and when we wanted to find out
which branch we are on, we did readlink .git/HEAD
. But symbolic links
are not entirely portable, so they are now deprecated and symbolic refs (as
described above) are used by default.
will exit with status 0 if the contents of the symbolic
ref were printed correctly, with status 1 if the requested name is not a
symbolic ref, or 128 if another error occurs.
Part of the git(1)