What Does “cp: omitting directory” Mean?

In Linux–based systems, the “cp” command is utilized to copy directories and files from one place to another. It stands for “copy“. When users try to copy a directory using the cp command, an error message “cp: omitting directory” is displayed in the terminal.

This article will provide the possible reasons and solutions to fix the “cp: omitting directory” error message.

What does “cp: omitting directory” Mean?

By default, the cp command only copies files and does not copy directories. So, if users try to copy a directory without the “-r” or “-R” option, see the error “cp: omitting directory“. This is because the cp command expects a file as the source, not a directory:

The output generates the error and does not copy the “Office” directory to the “Downloads” directory.

How to Fix the “cp: omitting directory” Error?

In Linux, copy a directory and its contents, utilize the “cp” command with the “-r” or “-R” options, which tells the command to copy the directory recursively. 

In Linux, the “cp -r” command is utilized to copy directories and their contents in a recursive manner. The syntax is as below:


$ cp -r [source_directory] [destination_directory]

In the above syntax, “source_directory” is the directory to be copied, and “destination_directory” is the location where the copied directory will be placed. 


For instance, copy a directory named “Office” and all its contents to a new directory called “mybackup“:

$ cp -r Office mybackup

Once this command is executed, the “Office” directory and all its contents have been copied to the “mybackup” directory.


To verify the copy, the “ls” command is utilized to list the contents of the destination directory, which is “mybackup” directory:

$ ls mybackup

The output displays the contents of the “Office” directory in the “mybackup” directory.

Note: If users are still getting the “cp: omitting directory” error, make sure it specifies the correct directories and file paths in the cp command.


In Linux, the error “cp: omitting directory” represents that the “cp” command expects a file as the source, not a directory. To fix the error, utilize the “-r” or “-R” option in the “cp” script to copy the directory in a recursive manner. 

This article has explained the meaning of the “cp: omitting directory” error and provided a solution to fix it.