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When I run:

git push origin branchname

What exactly is the origin and why do I have to type it before the branch name?

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"origin" is noting just what you nicknamed your remote repository when you ran a command like this:

$ git remote add origin [email protected]:USERNAME/REPOSITORY-NAME.git

Now your Git knows that "origin" points to that specific repository. You could have named it "github" or "repo" or whatever you wanted.

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