Tag Archives: bash

Bash history expansion

The general syntax is:


Command segment defines which command to look for in history. It can be a modifier like !! (last command), !-1, !-2, !-3 … (last, previous to last etc) or a specific keyword like !cat (search for most recent cat).

Parameter segment defines which part of the command to use. ^ is first parameter, $ is last parameter, * are all the parameters, 0 the command and 1,2,3… are the parameters. You can define a range eg 2-4 (parameters 2 to 4)

Besides that, you can also use ^x^y^ to replace x with y. There are some more advanced ways to search. Take a look at the references at the end of this page.

You can also use history n to review the last n commands with their ids. If you know an id, you can use it at command segment,

All results are shown as if the command was executed immediately after touch a b c d e (not one after another)

Assume that you have typed in this order:

  1. ls -a -r
  2. date
  3. touch a b c d e
!! last command (all words) touch a b c d e
!* all but first keyword a b c d e
!^ second keyword a
!$ last keyword e
!:0 first word touch
!:1 second word a
!:2-4 range of words b c d
 ^touch^ls find touch and replace it with ls  ls a b c e d
!-1 last command touch a b c d e
!-2 previous to last command date
!-2:0 first keyword of previous to last command date
!ls:* search for command ls
all but first keyword of ls
-a -r
!ls:$ search for command ls
last keyword of ls




Book recommendation:

UNIX Shells by Example, Ellie Quigley