HOSTS(5) Linux Programmer's Manual HOSTS(5)
hosts - The static table lookup for host names
This manual page describes the format of the /etc/hosts file. This file
is a simple text file that associates IP addresses with hostnames, one
line per IP address. For each host a single line should be present with
the following information:
IP_address canonical_hostname [aliases...]
Fields of the entry are separated by any number of blanks and/or tab
characters. Text from a "#" character until the end of the line is a
comment, and is ignored. Host names may contain only alphanumeric
characters, minus signs ("-"), and periods ("."). They must begin with
an alphabetic character and end with an alphanumeric character.
Optional aliases provide for name changes, alternate spellings, shorter
hostnames, or generic hostnames (for example, localhost).
The Berkeley Internet Name Domain (BIND) Server implements the Internet
name server for UNIX systems. It augments or replaces the /etc/hosts
file or host name lookup, and frees a host from relying on /etc/hosts
being up to date and complete.
In modern systems, even though the host table has been superseded by
DNS, it is still widely used for:
Most systems have a small host table containing the name and
address information for important hosts on the local network.
This is useful when DNS is not running, for example during sys-
NIS Sites that use NIS use the host table as input to the NIS host
database. Even though NIS can be used with DNS, most NIS sites
still use the host table with an entry for all local hosts as a
Very small sites that are isolated from the network use the host
table instead of DNS. If the local information rarely changes,
and the network is not connected to the Internet, DNS offers
192.168.1.10 foo.mydomain.org foo
192.168.1.13 bar.mydomain.org bar
220.127.116.11 master.debian.org master
Modifications to this file normally take effect immediately, except in
cases where the file is cached by applications.
RFC 952 gave the original format for the host table, though it has
Before the advent of DNS, the host table was the only way of resolving
hostnames on the fledgling Internet. Indeed, this file could be created
from the official host data base maintained at the Network Information
Control Center (NIC), though local changes were often required to bring
it up to date regarding unofficial aliases and/or unknown hosts. The
NIC no longer maintains the hosts.txt files, though looking around at
the time of writing (circa 2000), there are historical hosts.txt files
on the WWW. I just found three, from 92, 94, and 95.
hostname(1), resolver(3), resolver(5), hostname(7), named(8), Internet
This manual page was written by Manoj Srivastava <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
for the Debian GNU/Linux system.
Debian 2002-06-16 HOSTS(5)