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gitglossary - A Git Glossary
alternate object database
Via the alternates mechanism, a repository can inherit part of its
object database from another object database, which is called an
A bare repository is normally an appropriately named directory with
a .git suffix that does not have a locally checked-out copy of any
of the files under revision control. That is, all of the Git
administrative and control files that would normally be present in
the hidden .git sub-directory are directly present in the
repository.git directory instead, and no other files are present
and checked out. Usually publishers of public repositories make
bare repositories available.
Untyped object, e.g. the contents of a file.
A "branch" is an active line of development. The most recent commit
on a branch is referred to as the tip of that branch. The tip of
the branch is referenced by a branch head, which moves forward as
additional development is done on the branch. A single Git
repository can track an arbitrary number of branches, but your
working tree is associated with just one of them (the "current" or
"checked out" branch), and HEAD points to that branch.
Obsolete for: index.
A list of objects, where each object in the list contains a
reference to its successor (for example, the successor of a commit
could be one of its parents).
BitKeeper/cvsps speak for "commit". Since Git does not store
changes, but states, it really does not make sense to use the term
"changesets" with Git.
The action of updating all or part of the working tree with a tree
object or blob from the object database, and updating the index and
HEAD if the whole working tree has been pointed at a new branch.
In SCM jargon, "cherry pick" means to choose a subset of changes
out of a series of changes (typically commits) and record them as a
new series of changes on top of a different codebase. In Git, this
is performed by the "git cherry-pick" command to extract the change
introduced by an existing commit and to record it based on the tip
of the current branch as a new commit.
A working tree is clean, if it corresponds to the revision
referenced by the current head. Also see "dirty".
As a noun: A single point in the Git history; the entire history of
a project is represented as a set of interrelated commits. The word
"commit" is often used by Git in the same places other revision
control systems use the words "revision" or "version". Also used as
a short hand for commit object.
As a verb: The action of storing a new snapshot of the project's
state in the Git history, by creating a new commit representing the
current state of the index and advancing HEAD to point at the new
An object which contains the information about a particular
revision, such as parents, committer, author, date and the tree
object which corresponds to the top directory of the stored
commit-ish (also committish)
A commit object or an object that can be recursively dereferenced
to a commit object. The following are all commit-ishes: a commit
object, a tag object that points to a commit object, a tag object
that points to a tag object that points to a commit object, etc.
Fundamental data structures and utilities of Git. Exposes only
limited source code management tools.
Directed acyclic graph. The commit objects form a directed acyclic
graph, because they have parents (directed), and the graph of
commit objects is acyclic (there is no chain which begins and ends
with the same object).
An unreachable object which is not reachable even from other
unreachable objects; a dangling object has no references to it from
any reference or object in the repository.
Normally the HEAD stores the name of a branch, and commands that
operate on the history HEAD represents operate on the history
leading to the tip of the branch the HEAD points at. However, Git
also allows you to check out an arbitrary commit that isn't
necessarily the tip of any particular branch. The HEAD in such a
state is called "detached".
Note that commands that operate on the history of the current
branch (e.g. git commit to build a new history on top of it) still
work while the HEAD is detached. They update the HEAD to point at
the tip of the updated history without affecting any branch.
Commands that update or inquire information about the current
branch (e.g. git branch --set-upstream-to that sets what
remote-tracking branch the current branch integrates with)
obviously do not work, as there is no (real) current branch to ask
about in this state.
The list you get with "ls" :-)
A working tree is said to be "dirty" if it contains modifications
which have not been committed to the current branch.
An evil merge is a merge that introduces changes that do not appear
in any parent.
A fast-forward is a special type of merge where you have a revision
and you are "merging" another branch's changes that happen to be a
descendant of what you have. In such a case, you do not make a new
merge commit but instead just update to his revision. This will
happen frequently on a remote-tracking branch of a remote
Fetching a branch means to get the branch's head ref from a remote
repository, to find out which objects are missing from the local
object database, and to get them, too. See also git-fetch(1).
Linus Torvalds originally designed Git to be a user space file
system, i.e. the infrastructure to hold files and directories. That
ensured the efficiency and speed of Git.
Synonym for repository (for arch people).
A plain file .git at the root of a working tree that points at the
directory that is the real repository.
Grafts enables two otherwise different lines of development to be
joined together by recording fake ancestry information for commits.
This way you can make Git pretend the set of parents a commit has
is different from what was recorded when the commit was created.
Configured via the .git/info/grafts file.
Note that the grafts mechanism is outdated and can lead to problems
transferring objects between repositories; see git-replace(1) for a
more flexible and robust system to do the same thing.
In Git's context, synonym for object name.
A named reference to the commit at the tip of a branch. Heads are
stored in a file in $GIT_DIR/refs/heads/ directory, except when
using packed refs. (See git-pack-refs(1).)
The current branch. In more detail: Your working tree is normally
derived from the state of the tree referred to by HEAD. HEAD is a
reference to one of the heads in your repository, except when using
a detached HEAD, in which case it directly references an arbitrary
A synonym for head.
During the normal execution of several Git commands, call-outs are
made to optional scripts that allow a developer to add
functionality or checking. Typically, the hooks allow for a command
to be pre-verified and potentially aborted, and allow for a
post-notification after the operation is done. The hook scripts are
found in the $GIT_DIR/hooks/ directory, and are enabled by simply
removing the .sample suffix from the filename. In earlier versions
of Git you had to make them executable.
A collection of files with stat information, whose contents are
stored as objects. The index is a stored version of your working
tree. Truth be told, it can also contain a second, and even a third
version of a working tree, which are used when merging.
The information regarding a particular file, stored in the index.
An index entry can be unmerged, if a merge was started, but not yet
finished (i.e. if the index contains multiple versions of that
The default development branch. Whenever you create a Git
repository, a branch named "master" is created, and becomes the
active branch. In most cases, this contains the local development,
though that is purely by convention and is not required.
As a verb: To bring the contents of another branch (possibly from
an external repository) into the current branch. In the case where
the merged-in branch is from a different repository, this is done
by first fetching the remote branch and then merging the result
into the current branch. This combination of fetch and merge
operations is called a pull. Merging is performed by an automatic
process that identifies changes made since the branches diverged,
and then applies all those changes together. In cases where changes
conflict, manual intervention may be required to complete the
As a noun: unless it is a fast-forward, a successful merge results
in the creation of a new commit representing the result of the
merge, and having as parents the tips of the merged branches. This
commit is referred to as a "merge commit", or sometimes just a
The unit of storage in Git. It is uniquely identified by the SHA-1
of its contents. Consequently, an object cannot be changed.
Stores a set of "objects", and an individual object is identified
by its object name. The objects usually live in $GIT_DIR/objects/.
Synonym for object name.
The unique identifier of an object. The object name is usually
represented by a 40 character hexadecimal string. Also colloquially
One of the identifiers "commit", "tree", "tag" or "blob" describing
the type of an object.
To merge more than two branches.
The default upstream repository. Most projects have at least one
upstream project which they track. By default origin is used for
that purpose. New upstream updates will be fetched into
remote-tracking branches named origin/name-of-upstream-branch,
which you can see using git branch -r.
Only update and add files to the working directory, but don't
delete them, similar to how cp -R would update the contents in the
destination directory. This is the default mode in a checkout when
checking out files from the index or a tree-ish. In contrast,
no-overlay mode also deletes tracked files not present in the
source, similar to rsync --delete.
A set of objects which have been compressed into one file (to save
space or to transmit them efficiently).
The list of identifiers, and other information, of the objects in a
pack, to assist in efficiently accessing the contents of a pack.
Pattern used to limit paths in Git commands.
Pathspecs are used on the command line of "git ls-files", "git
ls-tree", "git add", "git grep", "git diff", "git checkout", and
many other commands to limit the scope of operations to some subset
of the tree or worktree. See the documentation of each command for
whether paths are relative to the current directory or toplevel.
The pathspec syntax is as follows:
o any path matches itself
o the pathspec up to the last slash represents a directory
prefix. The scope of that pathspec is limited to that subtree.
o the rest of the pathspec is a pattern for the remainder of the
pathname. Paths relative to the directory prefix will be
matched against that pattern using fnmatch(3); in particular, *
and ? can match directory separators.
For example, Documentation/*.jpg will match all .jpg files in the
Documentation subtree, including
A pathspec that begins with a colon : has special meaning. In the
short form, the leading colon : is followed by zero or more "magic
signature" letters (which optionally is terminated by another colon
:), and the remainder is the pattern to match against the path. The
"magic signature" consists of ASCII symbols that are neither
alphanumeric, glob, regex special characters nor colon. The
optional colon that terminates the "magic signature" can be omitted
if the pattern begins with a character that does not belong to
"magic signature" symbol set and is not a colon.
In the long form, the leading colon : is followed by an open
parenthesis (, a comma-separated list of zero or more "magic
words", and a close parentheses ), and the remainder is the pattern
to match against the path.
A pathspec with only a colon means "there is no pathspec". This
form should not be combined with other pathspec.
The magic word top (magic signature: /) makes the pattern match
from the root of the working tree, even when you are running
the command from inside a subdirectory.
Wildcards in the pattern such as * or ? are treated as literal
Case insensitive match.
Git treats the pattern as a shell glob suitable for consumption
by fnmatch(3) with the FNM_PATHNAME flag: wildcards in the
pattern will not match a / in the pathname. For example,
"Documentation/*.html" matches "Documentation/git.html" but not
Two consecutive asterisks ("**") in patterns matched against
full pathname may have special meaning:
o A leading "**" followed by a slash means match in all
directories. For example, "**/foo" matches file or
directory "foo" anywhere, the same as pattern "foo".
"**/foo/bar" matches file or directory "bar" anywhere that
is directly under directory "foo".
o A trailing "/**" matches everything inside. For example,
"abc/**" matches all files inside directory "abc", relative
to the location of the .gitignore file, with infinite
o A slash followed by two consecutive asterisks then a slash
matches zero or more directories. For example, "a/**/b"
matches "a/b", "a/x/b", "a/x/y/b" and so on.
o Other consecutive asterisks are considered invalid.
Glob magic is incompatible with literal magic.
After attr: comes a space separated list of "attribute
requirements", all of which must be met in order for the path
to be considered a match; this is in addition to the usual
non-magic pathspec pattern matching. See gitattributes(5).
Each of the attribute requirements for the path takes one of
o "ATTR" requires that the attribute ATTR be set.
o "-ATTR" requires that the attribute ATTR be unset.
o "ATTR=VALUE" requires that the attribute ATTR be set to the
o "!ATTR" requires that the attribute ATTR be unspecified.
Note that when matching against a tree object, attributes
are still obtained from working tree, not from the given
After a path matches any non-exclude pathspec, it will be run
through all exclude pathspecs (magic signature: ! or its
synonym ^). If it matches, the path is ignored. When there is
no non-exclude pathspec, the exclusion is applied to the result
set as if invoked without any pathspec.
A commit object contains a (possibly empty) list of the logical
predecessor(s) in the line of development, i.e. its parents.
The term pickaxe refers to an option to the diffcore routines that
help select changes that add or delete a given text string. With
the --pickaxe-all option, it can be used to view the full changeset
that introduced or removed, say, a particular line of text. See
Cute name for core Git.
Cute name for programs and program suites depending on core Git,
presenting a high level access to core Git. Porcelains expose more
of a SCM interface than the plumbing.
Refs that are per-worktree, rather than global. This is presently
only HEAD and any refs that start with refs/bisect/, but might
later include other unusual refs.
Pseudorefs are a class of files under $GIT_DIR which behave like
refs for the purposes of rev-parse, but which are treated specially
by git. Pseudorefs both have names that are all-caps, and always
start with a line consisting of a SHA-1 followed by whitespace. So,
HEAD is not a pseudoref, because it is sometimes a symbolic ref.
They might optionally contain some additional data. MERGE_HEAD and
CHERRY_PICK_HEAD are examples. Unlike per-worktree refs, these
files cannot be symbolic refs, and never have reflogs. They also
cannot be updated through the normal ref update machinery. Instead,
they are updated by directly writing to the files. However, they
can be read as if they were refs, so git rev-parse MERGE_HEAD will
Pulling a branch means to fetch it and merge it. See also git-
Pushing a branch means to get the branch's head ref from a remote
repository, find out if it is an ancestor to the branch's local
head ref, and in that case, putting all objects, which are
reachable from the local head ref, and which are missing from the
remote repository, into the remote object database, and updating
the remote head ref. If the remote head is not an ancestor to the
local head, the push fails.
All of the ancestors of a given commit are said to be "reachable"
from that commit. More generally, one object is reachable from
another if we can reach the one from the other by a chain that
follows tags to whatever they tag, commits to their parents or
trees, and trees to the trees or blobs that they contain.
To reapply a series of changes from a branch to a different base,
and reset the head of that branch to the result.
A name that begins with refs/ (e.g. refs/heads/master) that points
to an object name or another ref (the latter is called a symbolic
ref). For convenience, a ref can sometimes be abbreviated when used
as an argument to a Git command; see gitrevisions(7) for details.
Refs are stored in the repository.
The ref namespace is hierarchical. Different subhierarchies are
used for different purposes (e.g. the refs/heads/ hierarchy is used
to represent local branches).
There are a few special-purpose refs that do not begin with refs/.
The most notable example is HEAD.
A reflog shows the local "history" of a ref. In other words, it can
tell you what the 3rd last revision in this repository was, and
what was the current state in this repository, yesterday 9:14pm.
See git-reflog(1) for details.
A "refspec" is used by fetch and push to describe the mapping
between remote ref and local ref.
A repository which is used to track the same project but resides
somewhere else. To communicate with remotes, see fetch or push.
A ref that is used to follow changes from another repository. It
typically looks like refs/remotes/foo/bar (indicating that it
tracks a branch named bar in a remote named foo), and matches the
right-hand-side of a configured fetch refspec. A remote-tracking
branch should not contain direct modifications or have local
commits made to it.
A collection of refs together with an object database containing
all objects which are reachable from the refs, possibly accompanied
by meta data from one or more porcelains. A repository can share an
object database with other repositories via alternates mechanism.
The action of fixing up manually what a failed automatic merge left
Synonym for commit (the noun).
To throw away part of the development, i.e. to assign the head to
an earlier revision.
Source code management (tool).
"Secure Hash Algorithm 1"; a cryptographic hash function. In the
context of Git used as a synonym for object name.
Mostly a synonym to shallow repository but the phrase makes it more
explicit that it was created by running git clone --depth=...
A shallow repository has an incomplete history some of whose
commits have parents cauterized away (in other words, Git is told
to pretend that these commits do not have the parents, even though
they are recorded in the commit object). This is sometimes useful
when you are interested only in the recent history of a project
even though the real history recorded in the upstream is much
larger. A shallow repository is created by giving the --depth
option to git-clone(1), and its history can be later deepened with
An object used to temporarily store the contents of a dirty working
directory and the index for future reuse.
A repository that holds the history of a separate project inside
another repository (the latter of which is called superproject).
A repository that references repositories of other projects in its
working tree as submodules. The superproject knows about the names
of (but does not hold copies of) commit objects of the contained
Symbolic reference: instead of containing the SHA-1 id itself, it
is of the format ref: refs/some/thing and when referenced, it
recursively dereferences to this reference. HEAD is a prime
example of a symref. Symbolic references are manipulated with the
A ref under refs/tags/ namespace that points to an object of an
arbitrary type (typically a tag points to either a tag or a commit
object). In contrast to a head, a tag is not updated by the commit
command. A Git tag has nothing to do with a Lisp tag (which would
be called an object type in Git's context). A tag is most typically
used to mark a particular point in the commit ancestry chain.
An object containing a ref pointing to another object, which can
contain a message just like a commit object. It can also contain a
(PGP) signature, in which case it is called a "signed tag object".
A regular Git branch that is used by a developer to identify a
conceptual line of development. Since branches are very easy and
inexpensive, it is often desirable to have several small branches
that each contain very well defined concepts or small incremental
yet related changes.
Either a working tree, or a tree object together with the dependent
blob and tree objects (i.e. a stored representation of a working
An object containing a list of file names and modes along with refs
to the associated blob and/or tree objects. A tree is equivalent to
tree-ish (also treeish)
A tree object or an object that can be recursively dereferenced to
a tree object. Dereferencing a commit object yields the tree object
corresponding to the revision's top directory. The following are
all tree-ishes: a commit-ish, a tree object, a tag object that
points to a tree object, a tag object that points to a tag object
that points to a tree object, etc.
An index which contains unmerged index entries.
An object which is not reachable from a branch, tag, or any other
The default branch that is merged into the branch in question (or
the branch in question is rebased onto). It is configured via
branch.<name>.remote and branch.<name>.merge. If the upstream
branch of A is origin/B sometimes we say "A is tracking origin/B".
The tree of actual checked out files. The working tree normally
contains the contents of the HEAD commit's tree, plus any local
changes that you have made but not yet committed.
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The Git User's Manual
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Git 2.25.1 04/26/2023 GITGLOSSARY(7)
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