Change the "From:" address in Unix "mail"

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Sending a message from the Unix command line using mail TO_ADDR results in an email from $USER@$HOSTNAME. Is there a way to change the "From:" address inserted by mail?

For the record, I'm using GNU Mailutils 1.1/1.2 on Ubuntu (but I've seen the same behavior with Fedora and RHEL).


$ mail -s Testing                                                                  



Subject: Testing
To: <>
X-Mailer: mail (GNU Mailutils 1.1)
Message-Id: <E1KdTJj-00025z-RK@localhost>
From: <chris@localhost>
Date: Wed, 10 Sep 2008 13:17:23 -0400



The "From:" line is part of the message body, not part of the header.

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On Centos 5.3 I'm able to do:

mail -s "Subject" -- -f < body

The double dash stops mail from parsing the -f argument and passes it along to sendmail itself.

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GNU mailutils's 'mail' command doesn't let you do this (easily at least). But If you install 'heirloom-mailx', its mail command (mailx) has the '-r' option to override the default '$USER@$HOSTNAME' from field.

echo "Hello there" | mail -s "testing" -r

Works for 'mailx' but not 'mail'.

$ ls -l /usr/bin/mail
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 22 2010-12-23 08:33 /usr/bin/mail -> /etc/alternatives/mail
$ ls -l /etc/alternatives/mail
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 23 2010-12-23 08:33 /etc/alternatives/mail -> /usr/bin/heirloom-mailx

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mail -s "$(echo -e "This is the subject\nFrom: Paula <>\n
Reply-to:\nContent-Type: text/html\n")" < htmlFileMessage.txt

the above is my solution....any extra headers can be added just after the from and before the reply to...just make sure you know your headers syntax before adding them....this worked perfectly for me.

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Plus it's good to use -F option to specify Name of sender.

Something like this:


Or just look at available options:

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  • What flavor of Unix is this? and which mail version? Just to know where that doesn't work.
  • Um, almost all. Anyone using mailx or berkeley mail is going to see it that way. If you want to affect the header, write the whole header and send with rmail or sendmail directly.
  • Oh, but, sorry, I run GenToo.
  • For the record, I'm using mailx and the example Chris gives works. Or is that what you meant?
  • Vinko, what version of UN*X are you running? Do you mean by "works" that you get his results or that you get the desired behavior that would address his need? It depends in some degree on how message submission works on your platform and whether the client adds a blank line before the
  • I just tested it again here to make sure, and it works fine for me. Not all mail clients work well with Reply-To, but I'd have thought that was a solved problem by now. The REPLYTO env variable is mentioned in the man page, Other UNIX mailers honour it, emacs etc. Still, I guess you have a fix.
  • I don't think it's the mail client... I don't see the Reply-To header in the raw message text. But, yeah, -a is sufficient.
  • No, it doesn't. But: "The complete GNU mailutils manual is not available in Debian systems due to licensing reasons." -aReply-To:... works.
  • I also don't see any mention of REPLYTO at
  • in CentOS the mail -a option means "attachemnet" . I needed to use -r like mail -r
  • does not work. 3 addresses get added to to address now. the to address, the f address and the localdomain
  • Can you help, this used to work - but, since a recent update, it no longer works, it just tries additionally sending an email to -f@hostname
  • Doesn't work on CentOS 6.3. Try @ubuntu-fanboy answer below using the -r flag.
  • Maybe could be useful to know that GNU mailutils mail command preinstalled on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS supports -r option, so you can easily set the sender address.