Or to phrase it differently, why would you want to prevent commands from being written to the bash history?

(Inspired by a related question.)


3 Answers 3


The one thing I use that the initial space for is if I want to be able to restart an older commandline that starts with the same command (!ls e.g.) and I need to be able to re-execute the older one, but not the newer.

The other time I use it is in the (seldom) cases I give a password on the commandline, I rather not have those stored in the .bash_history file once I exit bash.


I'd rather not know how many times I've played crawl!

Occasionally I like to do a history | awk '{print $2}' | sort -n | uniq -c | sort -n | tail to see my most-issued commands. I want to see a ranking in there of commands I find interesting (things like ls, svn, p4, for, and cd) and I feel better when I don't see games in that list. So when I run something that I don't want to see in that list, I prefix it with a space.

  • 1
    This doesn't really answer the Q.
    – slm
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 6:42
  • 3
    I don't know: it is a valid use of the variable (and it is expressed with a degree of humour and geekiness). Upvoted.
    – jasonwryan
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 7:20
  • you can add the games you play to HISTIGNORE to avoid getting it in history file
    – theist
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 8:10

In addition to Anthon: It is not just possible to avoid similar command lines in history but from time to time there is a need to do that: I often analyze OpenPGP certificates in the shell. That means that 15 lines (sometimes more) are thrown in the console. You do that a few times and your history is full. Even worse: History does not work well if the command covers the whole screen (bash). The start of the command is not shown correctly and thus can hardly be edited.

Thus I keep a rather short one of these command lines in the history and block the other ones.

  • You should make your bash history size (number of items or lines) unlimited export HISTFILESIZE=-1
    – Jorge V.
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 0:12

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