So, on a CentOS box, I accidentally executed :w<Down> in a vim editor, with "<Down>" being literally pressing the down arrow key on the keyboard (rendered onscreen as "<Down>"), and now I have a file named "<Down>" which I can't seem to get rid of; running "rm <Down>" (literally spelling out "less-than, D, o, w, n, greater-than") gives a syntax error.

How can I get rid of this file with the funky name?

5 Answers 5


Use singlequotes to keep the control characters from being processed:

rm -f '<Down>'
  • We have all ran into this issue at some point when we first started out with linux. I for the longest time had trouble editing files with spaces in the name until I realized I could just put quotes around it. Jul 15, 2010 at 19:33

Use \ to escape special characters. In this case, you would use

rm \<Down\>

As an alternate solution:

$ ls -il .
total 0
1439039 -rw-r--r-- 1 medina foo 0 2010-07-15 16:48 ?????

# http://www.gnu.org/software/findutils/manual/html_mono/find.html#Deleting-Files
$ find . -inum 1439039 -delete

The easiest way I found to deal with all cases of escaping is using a scripting language:

$ cd /tmp/test/
$ ls
$ python
Python 2.6.5 (r265:79063, Apr 16 2010, 13:57:41) 
[GCC 4.4.3] on linux2
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> import os
>>> os.unlink('<Down>')
>>> quit()
$ ls

type rm <D and then press TAB , it will show suggestions, for the name of the desired file..

  • 1
    I deleted your duplicate answer - 'interesting' choice of icon by the way...
    – Chopper3
    Jul 16, 2010 at 14:56

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