The Definition Of Verbose Output

Many Linux commands have a minus v (-v) switch. If you look at the manual pages for these commands it will say "-v - verbose output".

If you visit you will see that the word verbose generates the following output:

  • adjective
  • 1. characterized by the use of many or too many words; wordy:
  • a verbose report.

Essentially verbose in Linux terms means more information and the term wordy used above pretty much sums it up.

Another definition for the word verbose on the same page is as follows:

  • adjective 1.
  • using or containing an excess of words, so as to be pedantic or boring; prolix

Personally I like the definition given by the Urban Dictionary:

Verbosity is the ability, limited in the general population, to utilize words which may be archaic, lengthy, and in the English language are more often than not based in Latin. Quite often, the phrases used in such a manner are synonymous with much more succinct forms. In addition to the expansive vocabulary utilized, prose which is deemed 'verbose' will quite often feature parenthetical phrases in unusual frequency, as might be found in scientific journals or university textbooks. Though accepted in academic contexts for its ability to explain, in great detail, concepts which may seem rather complex to the average layperson, the overuse of excessive verbosity will often cause common folk, especially those who might be afflicted with the neurological disorder known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), to lose interest in the concepts being explained, and thus the knowledge they might gain would be lost to them. Moderation, therefore, is the key to the proper usage of verbosity.

There has to be a sense of irony that the definition given by the Urban Dictionary for the term verbose is in itself incredibly verbose in nature.

Having read all of those definitions here is my definition of the term verbose when used in Linux: Provides more information

Examples Of Commands Providing Verbose Output

The lspci command in Linux is used to return a list of all the PCI devices on your computer.

The output for the lspci command is already fairly verbose but you can use the "-v" switch with lspci to get even more output and it goes even further by having a "-vv" and even "-vvv" switches to get really verbose output.

A simple example is the ps command which returns a list of processes.

ps -e

The above command lists every process on the system and the output from the command is as follows:

  • PID (process ID)
  • TTY (terminal type)
  • Time
  • CMD (command)

The ps command can also be associated with the minus v (-v) switch which shows verbose output.

ps -ev

The above command still shows every process but now you see the following columns:

  • PID
  • TTY
  • STAT
  • TIME
  • TRS
  • DRS
  • RSS
  • %MEM

Generally you only want to use a verbose switch if there is extra information that you really need to see and it shouldn't be used for every command you use. Indeed not every command has an option to show verbose output.

The reason for not showing verbose output is that it actually slows down the command slightly so it isn't something you want to use inside scripts unless you specifically need to output extra information.

When using FTP verbose is a command in its own right and it is used to toggle extra information on or off depending on the setting you wish to use.


It could be said that this page is fairly verbose in giving its definition of the word verbose.

Hopefully however it has helped you understand why you may now be using that often used minus v (-v) switch when using Linux commands.

Was this page helpful?