What Does 'Terminal' Mean?

What is a Terminal?
Photo by Alex Chumak on Unsplash

The Terminal, also known as the command line or command prompt, is a powerful tool for interacting with your computer’s operating system. It allows you to enter commands and execute programs by typing them into a text interface, rather than using a graphical interface with a mouse and keyboard.

One of the main advantages of the Terminal is that it makes it possible for you to interact with your operating system more directly and efficiently.

You can enter commands and execute programs more quickly, and you have access to a wider range of features and functions. For instance, you can use the Terminal to navigate your file system, install and remove software, manage processes, and even write scripts to automate tasks.

The Terminal is also useful for advanced users who need to perform complex tasks or troubleshoot problems with their system. It can provide detailed information about the inner workings of your computer and provide you with the capacity to fix problems that might be difficult or impossible to solve using a graphical interface.

More information

To use the Terminal, you need to open it on your computer. On a Mac, you can find the Terminal in the Utilities folder in the Applications folder. On a Windows computer, you can find the Command Prompt by searching for “cmd” in the Start menu.

Once you have the Terminal open, you can enter commands by typing them into the command prompt and pressing Enter. For example, you can use the ls command to list the files in the current directory or the cd command to change the current directory.

You can also use the “man” command to view the manual page for a particular command, which will provide more information about how to use it.

The Terminal uses a programming language called Bash (Bourne Again Shell) to interpret and execute the commands you enter. Bash is a powerful and flexible language that enables you to do a lot of tasks, from simple operations like listing files and directories to more complex tasks like writing scripts and automating processes.

There are many resources available online to help you learn how to use the Terminal and Bash. There are also plenty of books and online courses that can teach you more about the command line and how to use it effectively.

It’s worth noting that the Terminal is a text-based interface, which means that you interact with it using text commands rather than a graphical interface.

This can be a bit intimidating for some users, especially if you are not used to working with text-based interfaces. However, with a bit of practice and patience, you should be able to get the hang of it fairly quickly.

Another important thing to understand about the Terminal is that it is case-sensitive, which means that the commands you enter must be typed in exactly the right case in order to work. For example, ls is a different command than LS, and cd is a different command than CD.

This can be a bit confusing at first, but it is an important feature of the Terminal that allows it to be more powerful and flexible.


The Terminal gives the user the ability to use wildcards to match multiple files or directories at once. Wildcards are special characters that can represent one or more characters in a filename or directory name. For example, the * wildcard can represent any number of characters, so ls * would list all the files in the current directory.

The ? wildcard can represent a single character, so ls a?c would list all the files in the current directory that have a name that starts with “a,”  ends with “c,”  and has a single character in between.

The Terminal also has a rich set of built-in commands that you can use to perform various tasks.

The following are some of the most helpful commands:

  • cd: to change the current directory.
  • ls: to provide a list of all the files and directories that are contained inside the current directory.
  • mkdir: to create a new directory.
  • touch: to create a new, empty file.
  • cp: to copy a file or directory.
  • mv: to move a file or directory.
  • rm: to delete a file or directory.
  • grep: to search for a pattern in a file.
  • cat: to reveal the contents of a file to the user.
  • less: to explore a file page by page.
  • sort: to organize the lines in a file in a certain order.
  • wc: to determine how many lines, words, and characters are included inside a file.

There are many other commands available as well, and you can use the “man” command to learn more about them.

In addition to the built-in commands, the Terminal also grants you the option to run programs and scripts by typing their names at the command prompt. For example, you can type “python” to start the Python interpreter or “sh myscript.sh” to run a shell script.


The Terminal is a versatile utility that makes it possible for you to execute a variety of commands on your computer. It is an essential tool for advanced users, and it can be useful software for anyone who wants to get more out of their computer and learn more about how it works.