In this documentation it is mentioned

A commit object may have any number of parents.

But from my understanding, the only case where a commit will have more than 1 parent is when a merge has happened, and in that case there will only be two parents. So my question is, can a commit have more than 2 parents? If so, when?


You can use git merge to merge more than one commit into your current branch. From man git-merge (or git help merge):

git-merge - Join two or more development histories together

The result will be a commit with more than two parents when you do that.

  • 29
    A merge of more than one branch (i.e. a commit with more than two parents) is colloquially known as an "octopus merge". That's also the source of inspiration for GitHub's logo and mascot, the eight-legged cat: it was originally called the Octopuss, but was renamed the more corporate-friendly Octocat. – Jörg W Mittag Mar 30 '16 at 3:05
  • 4
    What are the advantages of merging three or more branches in a single commit, instead of a series of commits? – Tor Klingberg Mar 30 '16 at 9:09
  • 2
    @TorKlingberg Cleaner history, but make sure to test the final product before pushing to the remote repsitory. – Ferrybig Mar 30 '16 at 9:23
  • 5
    @KasunSiyambalapitiya - There are multiple examples in one particular github repo. One of the many octopus merges in that repo which involves 27 parents. – David Hammen Apr 17 '17 at 13:58
  • 1
    @JörgWMittag Literally none of that is true. Source: worked at GitHub for five years. – gjtorikian Nov 13 '17 at 19:50

You can specify more than one branch when merging.

For example:

git merge branch_A branch_B branch_C [...]

Then commit has more parents.


Yes, how about 100k parents?

Here is a live GitHub example with a merge of 100k commits: https://github.com/cirosantilli/test-octopus-100k Generated with this script.


Linus does not like commits with more than 60 parents: https://www.destroyallsoftware.com/blog/2017/the-biggest-and-weirdest-commits-in-linux-kernel-git-history

It's pulled, and it's fine, but there's clearly a balance between "octopus merges are fine" and "Christ, that's not an octopus, that's a Cthulhu merge".

Have a look at the format for the Git commit object


From that analysis, we can see that the list of parents list is an arbitrary newline separated list of type:

parent {parent_1_sha}
parent {parent_2_sha}
parent {parent_N_sha}

and so an arbitrary number of parents is allowed.

Minimal example


#!/usr/bin/env bash
set -eu

mkdir tmp
cd tmp
git init

touch root
git add .
git commit -m root
sha_root="$(git log -1 --format="%H")"

touch 1
git add .
git commit -m 1
sha1="$(git log -1 --format="%H")"

git reset --hard "$sha_root"
touch 2
git add .
git commit -m 2
sha2="$(git log -1 --format="%H")"

git reset --hard "$sha_root"
touch 3
git add .
git commit -m 3
sha3="$(git log -1 --format="%H")"

git merge -m merge "$sha1" "$sha2"


*-.   2d2a6c2 (HEAD -> master) merge
|\ \  
| | * 2300c18 2
| * | 7e096cb 1
| |/  
* | 50aa125 3
* a1e94fd root

protected by gnat Aug 28 '17 at 10:56

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.