Renaming branches remotely in Git


If there is a repository that I only have git:// access to (and would usually just push+pull), is there a way to rename branches in that repository in the same way that I would do locally with git branch -m?

3/23/2019 11:31:00 AM

If you really just want to rename branches remotely, without renaming any local branches at the same time, you can do this with a single command:

git push <remote> <remote>/<old_name>:refs/heads/<new_name> :<old_name>

I wrote this script (git-rename-remote-branch) which provides a handy shortcut to do the above easily.

As a bash function:

  if [ $# -ne 3 ]; then
    echo "Rationale : Rename a branch on the server without checking it out."
    echo "Usage     : ${FUNCNAME[0]} <remote> <old name> <new name>"
    echo "Example   : ${FUNCNAME[0]} origin master release"
    return 1 

  git push $1 $1/$2\:refs/heads/$3 :$2

To integrate @ksrb's comment: What this basically does is two pushes in a single command, first git push <remote> <remote>/<old_name>:refs/heads/<new_name> to push a new remote branch based on the old remote tracking branch and then git push <remote> :<old_name> to delete the old remote branch.


First checkout to the branch which you want to rename:

git branch -m old_branch new_branch
git push -u origin new_branch

To remove an old branch from remote:

git push origin :old_branch

Sure. Just rename the branch locally, push the new branch, and push a deletion of the old.

The only real issue is that other users of the repository won't have local tracking branches renamed.



"Renaming" a remote branch is actually a 2 step process (not necessarily ordered):

  • deletion of the old remote branch (git push [space]:<old_name> as ksrb explained);
  • push into a new remote branch (difference between a couple of answers commands below).


I use TortoiseGit and when I first tried to delete the branch through the command line, I got this:

$ git push origin :in
  • fatal: 'origin' does not appear to be a git repository

  • fatal: Could not read from remote repository.

Please make sure you have the correct access rights and the repository exists.

This was likely due to pageant not having the private key loaded (which TortoiseGit loads automatically into pageant). Moreover, I noticed that TortoiseGit commands do not have the origin ref in them (e.g. git.exe push --progress "my_project" interesting_local:interesting).

I am also using Bitbucket and, as others web-based online git managers of the sort (GitHub, GitLab), I was able to delete the remote branch directly through their interface (branches page):

Delete branch Bitbucket

However, in TortoiseGit you may also delete remote branches through Browse References:

Browse References menu

By right-clicking on a remote branch (remotes list) the Delete remote branch option shows up:

TortoiseGit remote branch delete


After deleting the old remote branch I pushed directly into a new remote branch through TortoiseGit just by typing the new name in the Remote: field of the Push window and this branch was automatically created and visible in Bitbucket.

However, if you still prefer to do it manually, a point that has not been mentioned yet in this thread is that -u = --set-upstream.

From git push docs, -u is just an alias of --set-upstream, so the commands in the answers of Sylvain (-set-upstream new-branch) and Shashank (-u origin new_branch) are equivalent, since the remote ref defaults to origin if no other ref was previously defined:

  • git push origin -u new_branch = git push -u new_branch from the docs description:

    If the configuration is missing, it defaults to origin.

In the end, I did not manually type in or used any of the commands suggested by the other answers in here, so perhaps this might be useful to others in a similar situation.


I don't know why but @Sylvain Defresne's answer does not work for me.

git branch new-branch-name origin/old-branch-name
git push origin --set-upstream new-branch-name
git push origin :old-branch-name

I have to unset the upstream and then I can set the stream again. The following is how I did it.

git checkout -b new-branch-name
git branch --unset-upstream
git push origin new-branch-name -u
git branch origin :old-branch-name

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