I have a file in which I need to eliminate everything after the first ; on every line.

So a file like this:


Will result in this:


I have looked into grep and sed. I would appreciate an answer incorporating either of these commands.

4 Answers 4


another option is to use the cut command

cat a.file | cut -d';' -f1
  • 9
    useless us of cat
    – user601
    Aug 23, 2010 at 18:35

sed is probably easiest and faster than awk or perl in this circumstance:

sed 's/^\([^;][^;]*\);.*$/\1/' some_file_name
  • 7
    This is more complicated than it should be! sed 's/;.*//' Aug 23, 2010 at 20:43
  • I beg to differ. perl -pe 's/;.*//' some_file_name is just as easy, and arguably up to 1500% faster when operating in large files.
    – codehead
    Aug 24, 2010 at 3:59
  • I have several systems where sed is available but perl is not, so I encourage using lighter-weight solutions where they suffice.
    – dubiousjim
    Apr 19, 2012 at 21:06

I typically use awk for things like this:

cat a.file | awk -F=";" '{ print $1 }'

That will take each line of a file and print the first group before the delimiter -F

  • 7
    useless use of cat. Aug 24, 2010 at 1:18
  • 1
    Second Dennis there. And under linux and BSD that -F=";" does not work as intended. And you might want to quote that $1, too: awk -F";" '{print $1}' a.file
    – codehead
    Aug 24, 2010 at 4:05

Here's a way to do it using GNU grep:

grep -Po "^[^;]+(?=;?)" filename
  • Without Gnu grep: grep -Eo '^[^;]+;' filename almost gets it, it just prints one character too many. grep -Eo '^[^;]+' filename almost gets it too, but it will also print complete (non-empty) lines that don't have any ;.
    – dubiousjim
    Apr 19, 2012 at 21:12

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