How do I get the time since the epoch, in milliseconds, in the OSX terminal?

The Linux/Ubuntu equivalent is date +%s.%N:

Linux $ date +%s.%N

Which does not work in my OSX terminal:

OSX $ date +%s.%N

4 Answers 4


The date program in OS X is different than GNU's coreutils date program. You can install coreutils (including gnu-date), then you will have a version of date that supports milliseconds.

As the installation from source can be a hassle for native OS X users I advise you to use Homebrew.

To install these tools using Homebrew run this oneliner in your terminal:

/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/HEAD/install.sh)"

Homebrew is now installed (it is wise to follow the installer's suggestions after installation). Now we will install coreutils using brew.

brew install coreutils

As the installation says, all commands have been installed with the prefix 'g' (e.g. gdate, gcat, gln, etc etc). If you really need to use these commands with their normal names, you can add a "gnubin" directory to your PATH (~/.bash_profile) like:


You can now run

gdate +%s.%N

and this will output your time since the epoch in milliseconds.

  • 3
    Nice. I didn't even have to add the path, gdate was installed in /usr/local/bin/gdate.
    – Adam Matan
    Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 13:22
  • That's what you would expect. All the binaries are installed with the g prefix. In the path I provided all the same gnu-coreutils are without the g prefix. So if you add it in your path like PATH="/usr/local/opt/coreutils/libexec/gnubin:$PATH" it will replace the originals. So OS X date becomes GNU date (instead of gdate) Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 15:28
  • Fine that it worked out. Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 15:30
  • 9
    Technically, the +%s.%N format gives the seconds down to nanosecond precision, not milliseconds. After I used brew to install gdate, I checked the manpage to see whether milliseconds was available. It's not. It also didn't say that a precision for %N could be specified, but I tried it anyway. I found that the command to get the seconds down to millisecond precision only (i.e., three decimal places) is gdate +%s.%3N. Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 17:12

Perl is ubiquitous.

$ perl -MTime::HiRes=time -e 'printf "%.9f\n", time'
  • 4
    underrated answer Commented May 19, 2021 at 21:27
  • ya, on mac monterey, running this gives me 16123456778.00000000000. It runs, but it doesn't do what the question asked on my mac.
    – Ajax
    Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 0:52
  • 1
    @Ajax, I doubt it somehow is using core time() function, instead of Time::HiRes::time(), would you try to run perl -e 'use Time::HiRes; printf "%.9f\n", Time::HiRes::time();' ?
    – ernix
    Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 8:32
  • Your updated function does, indeed, print useful values after the . instead of all 0
    – Ajax
    Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 15:32

In OS X, just run date +%s as OS X doesn't support any more precision than this in date's output and any excess precision not supported by the internal representation is truncated toward minus infinity.

If you want milliseconds output, you can use the following command, although the output is just corrected by appending zeros rather than adding precision due to the aforementioned reason. The following does output correct milliseconds on systems which support the necessary precision.

echo $(($(date +'%s * 1000 + %-N / 1000000')))

Source for above command: Unix.SE – How to get milliseconds since Unix epoch

If you just want a command that appends the right number of zeros in OS X, you can use:

date +%s000
  • 3
    OS X doesn't support %-N, so that doesn't do anything (and could cause trouble if the shell variable $N is set). Just use date +%s000 (or date +%s.000 if you want the decimal point). Commented Jun 21, 2014 at 19:24
  • @Gordon Yes, I mentioned this, but if OP is looking for a portable solution that does work successfully on systems which are capable of that precision, the above command works. Of course you could simply append zeros to the output but copying that to other systems which may support the extra precision would not be ideal.
    – grg
    Commented Jun 21, 2014 at 19:26
  • Ah, I see. But since OS X's date command just passes %-N through as N, it can interfere with the calculation. Try setting N=7000000000000000000, then try the command... This is an unlikely case in practice, but I'd feel safer with something that didn't depend on the environment. Commented Jun 21, 2014 at 19:30
  • @Gordon Indeed, setting the variable would break it—I suppose the specific variable could be reset just before the command is run, but resetting variables like that is something every good script should do before running commands anyway, imo, just in case. Of course, this is all based on my assumption that the OP wants a script—edited answer to include the literal appending of zeros.
    – grg
    Commented Jun 21, 2014 at 19:32
  • 7
    The OP asked for "time since the epoch, in milliseconds", this is an answer on how to add zero's to a string. Not the same. Although explained in the post, not an answer to the question. Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 15:33

This solution works on macOS, if you consider using a bash script and have python available:

python -c 'from time import time; print(int(round(time() * 1000)))'

Or write a python script directly:


from time import time
print(int(round(time() * 1000)))
  • Of all the choices, the one I finally went with was modern python: python3 -c "from datetime import datetime; print(datetime.now().strftime('%y-%m-%d.%H-%M-%S.%f'))"
    – Ajax
    Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 15:27

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