How to Change or Set System Locales in Linux

A locale is a set of environmental variables that defines the language, country, and character encoding settings (or any other special variant preferences) for your applications and shell session on a Linux system. These...

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A locale is a set of environmental variables that defines the language, country, and character encoding settings (or any other special variant preferences) for your applications and shell session on a Linux system. These environmental variables are used by system libraries and locale-aware applications on the system.

Locale affects things such as the time/date format, the first day of the week, numbers, currency and many other values formatted in accordance with the language or region/country you set on a Linux system.

In this article, we will show how to view your currently installed system locale and how to set system’s locale in Linux.

How to View System Locale in Linux

To view information about the current installed locale, use the locale or localectl utility.

$ locale LANG=en_US.UTF-8
LANGUAGE=en_US
LC_CTYPE="en_US.UTF-8"
LC_NUMERIC="en_US.UTF-8"
LC_TIME="en_US.UTF-8"
LC_COLLATE="en_US.UTF-8"
LC_MONETARY="en_US.UTF-8"
LC_MESSAGES="en_US.UTF-8"
LC_PAPER="en_US.UTF-8"
LC_NAME="en_US.UTF-8"
LC_ADDRESS="en_US.UTF-8"
LC_TELEPHONE="en_US.UTF-8"
LC_MEASUREMENT="en_US.UTF-8"
LC_IDENTIFICATION="en_US.UTF-8"
LC_ALL= $ localectl status System Locale: LANG=en_US.UTF-8 LANGUAGE=en_US VC Keymap: n/a X11 Layout: us X11 Model: pc105


You can view more information about an environmental variable, for example LC_TIME, which stores the time and date format.

$ locale -k LC_TIME abday="Sun;Mon;Tue;Wed;Thu;Fri;Sat"
day="Sunday;Monday;Tuesday;Wednesday;Thursday;Friday;Saturday"
abmon="Jan;Feb;Mar;Apr;May;Jun;Jul;Aug;Sep;Oct;Nov;Dec"
mon="January;February;March;April;May;June;July;August;September;October;November;December"
am_pm="AM;PM"
d_t_fmt="%a %d %b %Y %r %Z"
d_fmt="%m/%d/%Y"
t_fmt="%r"
t_fmt_ampm="%I:%M:%S %p"
era=
era_year=""
era_d_fmt=""
alt_digits=
era_d_t_fmt=""
era_t_fmt=""
time-era-num-entries=0
time-era-entries="S"
week-ndays=7
week-1stday=19971130
week-1stweek=1
first_weekday=1
first_workday=2
cal_direction=1
timezone=""
date_fmt="%a %b %e %H:%M:%S %Z %Y"
time-codeset="UTF-8"
alt_mon="January;February;March;April;May;June;July;August;September;October;November;December"
ab_alt_mon="Jan;Feb;Mar;Apr;May;Jun;Jul;Aug;Sep;Oct;Nov;Dec"

To display a list of all available locales use the following command.

$ locale -a C
C.UTF-8
en_US.utf8
POSIX

How to Set System Locale in Linux

If you want to change or set system local, use the update-locale program. The LANG variable allows you to set the locale for the entire system.

The following command sets LANG to en_IN.UTF-8 and removes definitions for LANGUAGE.

$ sudo update-locale LANG=LANG=en_IN.UTF-8 LANGUAGE
OR
$ sudo localectl set-locale LANG=en_IN.UTF-8

To configure a specific locale parameter, edit the appropriate variable. For instance.

$ sudo update-locale LC_TIME=en_IN.UTF-8
OR
$ sudo localectl set-locale LC_TIME=en_IN.UTF-8

You can find global locale settings in the following files:

  • /etc/default/locale – on Ubuntu/Debian
  • /etc/locale.conf – on CentOS/RHEL

These files can also be edited manually using any of your favorite command line editors such as Vim or Nano, to configure your system locale.

To set a global locale for single user, you can simply open ~/.bash_profile file and add the following lines.

LANG="en_IN.utf8"
export LANG

For more information, see the locale, update-locale and localectl man pages.

$ man locale
$ man update-locale
$ man localectl

That’s all! In this short article, we have explained how to view and set system local in Linux. If you have any questions, use the feedback form below to reach us.

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