OpenBSD manual page server

Manual Page Search Parameters

MAILADDR(7) Miscellaneous Information Manual MAILADDR(7)

mailaddrmail addressing description

Mail addresses are based on the Internet protocol listed at the end of this manual page. These addresses are in the general format


where a domain is a hierarchical dot separated list of subdomains. For example, a valid address is:


Unlike some other forms of addressing, domains do not imply any routing. Thus, although this address is specified as an Internet address, it might travel by an alternate route if that were more convenient or efficient. For example, at Berkeley, the associated message would probably go directly to CS over the Ethernet rather than going via the Berkeley Internet gateway.

Under certain circumstances it may not be necessary to type the entire domain name. In general, anything following the first dot may be omitted if it is the same as the domain from which you are sending the message. For example, a user on “” could send to “eric@CS” without adding the “” since it is the same on both sending and receiving hosts.

Certain old address formats are converted to the new format to provide compatibility with the previous mail system. In particular,




are allowed;


is converted to




is converted to


This is normally converted back to the “host!user” form before being sent on for compatibility with older UUCP hosts.

Domain names (i.e., anything after the “@” sign) may be given in any mixture of upper and lower case with the exception of UUCP hostnames. Most hosts accept any combination of case in user names, with the notable exception of MULTICS sites.

Under some circumstances it may be necessary to route a message through several hosts to get it to the final destination. Normally this routing is done automatically, but sometimes it is desirable to route the message manually. Addresses which show these relays are termed “route-addrs”. These use the syntax:


This specifies that the message should be sent to “hosta”, from there to “hostb”, and finally to “hostc”. This path is forced even if there is a more efficient path to “hostc”.

Route-addrs occur frequently on return addresses, since these are generally augmented by the software at each host. It is generally possible to ignore all but the “user@hostc” part of the address to determine the actual sender.

[Note: The route-addr syntax is officially deprecated in RFC 1123 and should not be used.]

Many sites also support the “percent hack” for simplistic routing:


is routed as indicated in the previous example.

Every site is required to have a user or user alias designated “postmaster” to which problems with the mail system may be addressed.

Some other networks can be reached by giving the name of the network as the last component of the domain. and may not be supported at all sites. For example, messages to CSNET or BITNET sites can often be sent to “user@host.CSNET” or “user@host.BITNET”, respectively.

mail(1), sendmail(8)

P. Resnick, Internet Message Format, RFC 5322, 2008.

mailaddr appeared in 4.2BSD.

The RFC 5322 group syntax (“group:user1,user2,user3;”) is not supported except in the special case of “group:;” because of a conflict with old berknet-style addresses.

Route-Address syntax is grotty.

UUCP- and Internet-style addresses do not coexist politely.

August 14, 2013 OpenBSD-5.5