Is it possible to specify root path relative to the containing conf file?

We are developing a web app and keep app-nginx.conf file with app-specific configuration in the project's directory. I want to be able to include this file into main nginx.conf and have root path properly referencing required project's sub-directory. Example:

# /etc/nginx/nginx.conf
http {
    include /absolute/path/to/app/app-nginx.conf

# /absolute/path/to/app/app-nginx.conf
server {
    server_name localhost;
    listen 9090;

    root ./app;

After starting nginx with similar configuration nginx tries to resolve ./app path relative to nginx installation directory (/usr/local/Cellar/nginx/1.4.3/ in my case), not to the app's directory.


Is it possible to specify root path relative to the containing conf file?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: Nginx, by default, only knows about the path such as --prefix and --conf-path that are set at the compile time (ref: https://nginx.org/en/docs/configure.html). We can find various paths used by Nginx by running the command nginx -V (it's capital "V"). So, --conf-path is where the main nginx.conf file resides and that path is used for any relative paths.

According to the official documentation (https://nginx.org/r/root), a root directive can contain other variables, though.

Thanks for @cyker for clarifying after 5 years of posting the initial answer!

  • Thank you, Pothi. Unfortunately neither of the options works for me. --prefix can affect other nginx servers and from my personal perspective a little bit harder to manage comparing to configuration file. And nginx doesn't allow to create custom variables with set directive outside server context, so I can't move absolute path from my app-nginx.conf file. – Anton Moiseev Oct 24 '13 at 13:57
  • So, that path is used for any relative paths. I think this is inaccurate. It seems nginx will use config dir for options include and ssl_certificate, for example, but will use prefix dir for options such as root. I don't seem to come up with a full list about which one each option uses. – Cyker Jul 27 '18 at 12:21
  • @Cyker You are right. Updated the answer now. Of course, it isn't complete. But, better than the original answer (that was indeed wrong / inaccurate). – Pothi Kalimuthu Jul 28 '18 at 4:22
  • I'm reading Nginx From Beginner to Pro, it's noted that: "You have already seen the usage of root directive inside a location block. The root directive tells Nginx to return /image/myimage.jpg instead of fully qualified path /etc/nginx/html/app1/image/myimage.jpg." so IMHO it means that Nginx config support relative pathes ? – Webwoman Sep 18 '18 at 17:47
  • Here, the question is specific to "root" directive and whether it could support "relative path to conf file". – Pothi Kalimuthu Sep 19 '18 at 3:06

I haven't found a way to use relative paths or define global variables, but this little trick solves my problem.

  • 3
    What little trick? – Michael Hampton Oct 24 '13 at 16:40
  • I can't define variable, but I can use map directive with single default value that will play role of the variable for me. – Anton Moiseev Oct 25 '13 at 19:15

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