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3 ways to List All Groups in Linux

To list all the groups in a Linux system, various commands can be used based on the specific information required. Here are some common methods:

Using the cat Command on /etc/group

The /etc/group file in a Linux system contains information about groups and group memberships

This plain text file contains one entry per line, each representing a single group. The structure of each line in /etc/group is formatted into four fields separated by colons (:).

These fields are as follows:

  • Group Name: The name of the group. This is used in various command-line operations and in defining file permissions.
  • Group Password: A rarely used field, it can store an encrypted password. This field is often left blank or filled with an x character.
  • Group ID (GID): A unique numerical ID assigned to the group. It is used by the system to refer to the group.
  • Group Members: A comma-separated list of usernames who are members of the group. This defines which users have the permissions associated with the group.


It’s often used in conjunction with the /etc/passwd and /etc/gshadow files for comprehensive user and group management.

Directly view the contents of the /etc/group file, which contains all the groups:

cat /etc/group

This lists all groups with their GID and member users.


Using the awk Command for a Simplified List

For a list of group names without additional details, use awk to filter the output:

awk -F: '{print $1}' /etc/group

This prints only the first field (the group name) from each line in /etc/group.

Let’s break down what this command does:

  • awk: This is a powerful text processing tool in Unix and Linux, used for manipulating data and generating reports.
  • -F:: This option sets the field separator to a colon (:). In the /etc/group file, each line’s fields are separated by colons, so this tells awk to split the line at each colon.
  • ‘{print $1}’: This is the action awk performs on each line of input. $1 refers to the first field in each line (fields are defined based on the field separator set by -F). The print $1 command tells awk to print the first field of each line.


So, when you run awk -F: ‘{print $1}’ /etc/group, it reads the /etc/group file, splits each line into fields at each colon, and prints out the first field of each line, which is the name of the group.

The result is a list of all group names defined in your system.

The output would look like this.


List All Groups with getent in Linux

The getent command is versatile for accessing entries in several text databases, including group information configured in /etc/nsswitch.conf.

To list all groups, use:

getent group

This displays all groups from the system’s group database, typically /etc/group, showing the group name, password placeholder, Group ID (GID), and group members.

The getent group command should be used in Linux environments when you need to retrieve information about groups from various name service databases configured on the system, such as /etc/group, NIS (Network Information Service), and LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol).

Unlike directly reading the /etc/group file with commands like cat or awk, getent group fetches group information from all configured sources, providing a more complete view of the groups on the system, especially in networked environments.

How to List All Groups a User Belongs To in Linux

You can use either the groups or id command in Linux to list all the groups a user belongs to. These commands provide a quick and easy way to view a user’s group memberships.

Using the groups Command

  1. Open the Terminal.
  2. Type groups username, replacing username with the actual user’s name.
  3. This command will display a list of all the groups the specified user is a member of.

Using the id Command

  1. Open the Terminal, if not already open.
  2. Type id -nG username, again replacing username with the actual user’s name.
  3. The -n flag prints names instead of numbers, and the -G flag lists all group IDs associated with the user.


For a user named john, the commands would be:

  • Using groups: groups john
  • Using id: id -nG john

Both commands will show a list of all groups that john is a part of.