How to cycle through reverse-i-search in BASH?

In the terminal, I can type Ctrl + R to search for a matching command previously typed in BASH. E.g., if I type Ctrl + R then grep, it lists my last grep command, and I can hit enter to use it. This only gives one suggestion though. Is there any way to cycle through other previously typed matching commands?

Asked By: Village


If I understand the question correctly you should be able to cycle through
alternatives by repeatedly hitting Ctrl + R.


  • Ctrl + R
  • grep
  • Ctrl + R
  • Ctrl + R

That searches backwards through your history. To search forward instead, use Ctrl + S, but you may need to have set: stty -ixon (either by .bash_profile or manually) prior to that to disable the XON/XOFF feature which takes over Ctrl + S. If it happens anyway, use Ctrl + Q to re-enable screen output (More details here.)

Answered By: Runium

You can also set up the up and down arrows to do a slightly different search by adding these lines to ~/.inputrc:

"e[A": history-search-backward
"e[B": history-search-forward

Instead of searching for a substring anywhere in the command (like Ctrlr) it will search for a command starting with the text to the left of the cursor. For example, if I run these commands:

$ ls bart
$ ls fools

then type ls and press Up twice, it will show ls bart and the cursor in the same place. Compare with Ctrlr, where it would find the ls twice in the last line, so you’d have to press it once again to find the previous line.

These approaches both have their strengths, and both of them can save a lot of time.

Answered By: l0b0

If you feel the command will be used frequently, you could add a tag

command #useful


Ctrl + R #useful

This works because # is a comment delimiter, i.e. everything that comes after the symbol is not interpreted as a command. However, it will be recorded in the history and is thus searchable.

Answered By: Sathyam

There’s a replacement for built-in Ctrl + R called hstr. It allows to search command history matching all search tokens at the same time (among other things), and cycle through result using arrow keys:


Here’s is a demo screencast.

It can be installed on a Debian-family OS like:

add-apt-repository ppa:ultradvorka/ppa
apt-get update
apt-get install hstr

hstr --show-configuration >> ~/.bashrc

And then use Ctrl + R (after reopening the terminal).

Answered By: saaj
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