What does "rc" mean in dot files

In my home folder in Linux I have several config files that have "rc" as a file name extension:

$ ls -a ~/|pcregrep 'rc$'

What does the "rc" in these names mean?

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Runtime Configuration normally if it's in the config directory. I think of them as resource files. If you see rc in file name this could be version i.e. Release Candidate.

Edit: No, I take it back officially... "run commands"

[Unix: from runcom files on the CTSS system 1962-63, via the startup script /etc/rc]

Script file containing startup instructions for an application program (or an entire operating system), usually a text file containing commands of the sort that might have been invoked manually once the system was running but are to be executed automatically each time the system starts up.

Thus, it would seem that the "rc" part stands for "runcom", which I believe can be expanded to "run commands". In fact, this is exactly what the file contains, commands that bash should run.

Quoted from What does "rc" in .bashrc stand for?

I learnt something new! :)

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In Unix world, RC stands for "Run Control".


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In the context of Unix-like systems, the term rc stands for the phrase "run commands". It is used for any file that contains startup information for a command. It is believed to have originated somewhere in 1965 from a runcom facility from the MIT Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS).

Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Run_commands

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To understand rc files, it helps to know that Ubuntu boots into several different runlevels. They are 0-6, 0 being "halt", 1 being "single-user", 2 being "multi-user"(the default runlevel), etc. This system has now been outdated by the Upstart and initd programs in most Linux Distros. It is still maintained for backwards compatibility.

Within the /etc directory are several folders labeled "rc0.d, rc1.d" etc, through rc6.d. These are the directories the kernel refers to to know which init scripts it should run for that runlevel. They are symbolic links to the system service scripts residing in the /etc/init.d directory.

In the context you are using it, it would appear that you are listing any files with rc in the name. The code in these files will set the way the services/tasks startup and run when initialized.

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  • See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Run_Commands
  • Same question asked here: bbs.archlinux.org/viewtopic.php?id=13052
  • I am more curious about how do programs 'know' which rc files to read from? For example, .vimrc is loaded before Vim starts. .pylintrc is loaded before pylint starts. I assume .bashrc is for the Terminal, but then again .bash_profile does the same. So were these file names pre-defined for each program and some, like the terminal, even recognize multiple configuration files?
  • @Sean "So were these file names pre-defined for each program and some, like the terminal, even recognize multiple configuration files?" Yes.
  • yep there are a lot of different answers. just think of them as resource files and we are good :) I fav Runtime Configuration or resource control.
  • The "rc" naming convention of "rc files" was inspired by the "runcom" facility mentioned above and does not stand for "resource configuration" or "runtime configuration" as is often wrongly guessed. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rc_file
  • "found a citation" - where?
  • Why not reconfiguration? Which would be very accurate, as for customization of the default configuration.
  • here is another citation corroborating the RUNCOM etymology
  • +1 for Release Candidate, even if its not the 'rc in bashrc'
  • Run levels are used at boot time when creating services, but this is different from rc files.