The '-D' or '--irreversible-delete' option of format-patch is
great for sending out patches to mailing lists, where there
is little value in seeing thousands of lines of deleted code.
Attention can then be focused on the changes relating to
the binding of the deleted code (Makefiles, etc).

However the original intent of commit 467ddc14f ("git diff -D: omit
the preimage of deletes") was as follows:

    To prevent such a patch from being applied by mistake, the
    output is designed not to be usable by "git apply" (or GNU "patch");
    it is strictly for human consumption.

The downside of this, is that patches to mailing lists which are
then either managed with patchworks, or dealt with directly by
maintainers, will need manual intervention if they are to be used.

But with the index lines, there is no reason why we can't act
intelligently and automatically on these with "git apply".
If we can unambiguously map what was recorded as the deleted
SHA prefix to the SHA of the matching blob filename in our tree,
then we set the image len to zero which facilitates the delete.

Signed-off-by: Paul Gortmaker <>

For a recent use case example, see:

Could be wrapped in an "am.applyirreversible" if for some reason
global deployment was considered unwise?

 Documentation/diff-options.txt |  5 +++--
 builtin/apply.c                | 30 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
 2 files changed, 33 insertions(+), 2 deletions(-)

diff --git a/Documentation/diff-options.txt b/Documentation/diff-options.txt
index cf4b216..efaaf1c 100644
--- a/Documentation/diff-options.txt
+++ b/Documentation/diff-options.txt
@@ -328,8 +328,9 @@ endif::git-log[]
        Omit the preimage for deletes, i.e. print only the header but not
        the diff between the preimage and `/dev/null`. The resulting patch
-       is not meant to be applied with `patch` nor `git apply`; this is
-       solely for people who want to just concentrate on reviewing the
+       is not meant to be applied with `patch` (but can be with `git apply`).
+       This is for people who want to avoid seeing/mailing all the deleted
+       file content, and instead just concentrate on reviewing the
        text after the change. In addition, the output obviously lack
        enough information to apply such a patch in reverse, even manually,
        hence the name of the option.
diff --git a/builtin/apply.c b/builtin/apply.c
index d453c83..363da63 100644
--- a/builtin/apply.c
+++ b/builtin/apply.c
@@ -2933,6 +2933,36 @@ static int apply_fragments(struct image *img, struct 
patch *patch)
        if (patch->is_binary)
                return apply_binary(img, patch);
+       /* output from --irreversible-delete (looks like empty file delete) */
+       if (patch->is_delete > 0 && !frag && img->len > 0) {
+               unsigned char file_sha1[20], patch_sha1[20];
+               struct object_context oc;
+               if (apply_in_reverse) {
+                       error(_("can not reverse an irreversible-delete patch"
+                             "on file '%s'."), name);
+                       return -1;
+               }
+               strcpy(oc.path, name);
+               if (get_sha1_with_context(patch->old_sha1_prefix,
+                   GET_SHA1_BLOB | GET_SHA1_QUIETLY, patch_sha1, &oc)) {
+                       error(_("the deleted SHA prefix of file '%s' (%s), does"
+                             " not seem to exist in this repository."), name,
+                             patch->old_sha1_prefix);
+                       return -1;
+               }
+               hash_sha1_file(img->buf, img->len, blob_type, file_sha1);
+               if (memcmp(file_sha1, patch_sha1, 20)) {
+                       error(_("the delete requested of '%s' (%s), does not"
+                             " match the current file contents."), name,
+                             sha1_to_hex(patch_sha1));
+                       return -1;
+               }
+               img->len = 0;
+       }
        while (frag) {
                if (apply_one_fragment(img, frag, inaccurate_eof, ws_rule, 
nth)) {

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