Common Linux Terminologies for Beginners


This guide explains some of the common terminologies that as a beginner, you need to know and understand if you want to be proficient in using and administering Linux systems.

If you are familiar with and understand popular Linux terms, you will be able to comprehend commands and accurately execute them. It will assist you in troubleshooting your Linux system if something goes wrong with it. It will be possible to understand error messages and log files more effectively.

Also, a lot of Linux programs and services need to be configured via the terminal. Understanding specific terms can assist you to know the setup options and modify the system as necessary. Apart from that, becoming familiar with common Linux terms will make it easier for you to build scripts and automate processes.

Importantly, being familiar with Linux terminology will help you interact with other Linux users more efficiently. It will make it simpler for you to request support from others or give it to them.

Common Linux Terms

1. Kernel

The kernel is the core component of a Linux operating system that interfaces and interacts with the computer’s hardware directly. The kernel serves as a link between the system’s hardware and software layers, allowing programs to interface with the hardware in a standardized manner. The primary functions of the kernel include memory management, process management, interprocess communication, device management, file system management, security management, and more. Ideally, Linux is only a kernel!

2. Distribution

Built on top of the Linux kernel, a distribution is a complete Linux-based operating system that comes with software applications, tools and utilities, and more. A distribution can have a graphical user interface(GUI), especially those intended for laptops and desktops or not (those built for servers). Examples of Linux distributions include Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Red Hat Enterprise Linux(RHEL), Rocky Linux, and much more.

3. User

Just like on any other operating system, a user is an account used to log in to a Linux system and access its resources, perform certain actions such as installing and uninstalling software, and create, delete, and modify other user accounts.

4. Group

A group in Linux is a collection of user accounts that have access rights to the same directories, files, or other system resources. Administrators can more easily and effectively manage user access to resources by creating groups and adding users to them.

5. Root or root user

The root user is a unique system user with the most access and privileges on the system. The root user has complete control over the entire system and has the ability to edit system files, install and uninstall software, and create, delete, and modify user accounts.

6. Command

A command is a specific instruction given to the Linux operating system through the terminal or shell to perform an action. The following are examples of commands to run on Ubuntu or Linux Mint distributions:

$sudo apt update
$sudo apt install vim
7. Shell

A shell is a program that interprets commands and allows you to interact with the operating system. Examples of shell programs include bash, fish, and zsh. You can also use a shell for programming also known as shell scripting to automate tasks and processes on a computer.

8. Terminal

A terminal is a text-based interface or window that allows you to interact with the operating system via a shell.

9. File system

A file system is a method used to organize files and directories in a storage device(such as a hard disk drive, solid-state drive, or USB drive) on a Linux system. A file system typically provides a structured way to store and access files and directories (also called folders) on a computer. Examples of file system types include Ext3, Ext4, XFS, Btrfs, and more.

10. Package

A package is a collection of software files and programs that are designed to work together and can be installed on a Linux system. There are several package formats available on Linux such as DEB for Debian and its derivative such as Ubuntu; RPM for RHEL and its derivative such as CentOS, Rocky Linux; Snaps; flatpack; and more.

11. Package manager

A package manager is a tool used to manage(install, update, and remove) packages on a Linux system. Examples of package managers include APT, YUM, DNF, and many more.

12. Repository

In Linux, a repository (or “repo” for short) is a central location where software packages are stored and maintained for distribution.


As a final remark, having a solid grasp of Linux terms is crucial if you wish to be proficient in using and managing Linux systems.

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