Bash history expansion cheatsheet

Often I forget the precise letter incantation for a particular bash history expansion shortcut and the bash manual page is crying out for a tabular form of these history expansions. So I decided to make one here for quick reference.

Event Designators (Line entry in history list)

Shortcut Purpose Example
! Start a history substitution !
!n Refer to command n in history !5
!-n Refer to current command minus n !-5
!! Refer to previous command !!
!string Refer to the most recent command starting with “string” !ls
!?string? Refer to the most recent command containing “string” !?ls?
!# The entire command line type so far echo !# back at ya

Word Designators - Word Inside Particular History Entry

Start with a “:” to select word

Designator Purpose Example Comments
0 Zeroth word; the command word !:0  
n The nth word !:5 For the 5th word
^ The first argument i.e., word 1 !:^ Or just “!^” seems to work
$ Last argument !:$ !$ also seems to work
% Last match from ?string? search !% Need to have performed ?bla? search first
x-y A range of words !:1-3 Abbr. to “!:-3” will start search from 0
* All words but zeroth !* I.e., all arguments
x* All words from x to end    
x- All words to end except last word    

Word Modifiers

After the optional word designator, you may use one more more modifiers prefixed with “:”

Note: this list is not exhaustive, see manual page for full list

Modifier Purpose Example
h Remove file name leaving only directory (head) !^:h
t Remove directory leaving only file (tail) !^:t
r Remove trailling suffix of form .xxx, leaving only base name !^:r
e Remove all but trailing suffix !^:e
s/old/new/ Replace old for new in event line. Any deliminator can be used in place of /. “&” means previous word in new substitution !^:s/old.txt/new.txt/
& Repeat the previous substitution !^:&
g Apply changes over whole line in conjunction with :s !^:sg/old/new/