We have files, we have directories; what is the noun that we could use to generically describe either of these? For instance, an apple or a pear can generically be described as fruit. Is there such a word?


If you want to be technical, they're File System Objects (or "File System Entries", if you want to be pendatic and technical.)

Of course, both are mouthfuls and not any more efficient than "file or folder." Although such terms do encompass symlinks as well, which are neither files nor folders but may appear as either.

  • Rereading this question, whilst the answer above is more thorough in detail, you've answered the question and did so before tchrist. Because of this, I've chosen to accept your answer instead of tchrist's. A big thanks to both of you for your help! – Nick Bull Sep 4 '15 at 10:56

“All directories are files, but not all files are directories”

A standard, run-of-the-mill filesystem will support at least these distinct types of files:

  • regular file
  • directory file
  • character special file
  • block special file
  • named pipe (fifo) file
  • socket file
  • symbolic link file

But many other types of files exist on specialty filesystems. Here are just a few of the rare types you may chance upon:

  • network special file
  • context-dependent file
  • resource-fork file
  • whiteout file
  • portal file
  • door file
  • shared-memory file
  • semaphore file
  • message-queue file
  • shadow file (for ACLs)
  • attribute directory
  • extended-attribute file

More exotic filesystem types have even more exotic sorts of files that can be found there.


In short, the generic term is actually file, with both regular files and directory files being distinct subtypes of the generic file, and many other sorts also existing.


data? Sounds pretty accurate to me, I mean directories contain files, which is different than pears and fruits anyway.

  • 1
    "Data" usually refers to the contents of files, or all of the various label and metadata information a filesystem contains. – DougM Feb 9 '14 at 16:06

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