Is there a shortcut in bash and zsh to delete one component of a path? For example, if I type ls ~/local/color/, and the cursor is at the end of line, is there a shortcut to delete the color/ at the end? Ideally I want solutions in both vi-mode and emacs-mode


The most commonly used commands in the default bash emacs mode, for most commonly used keyboards:


  • Ctrl-p, or Up: previous command
  • Ctrl-n, or Down: next command
  • Ctrl-b, or Left: previous character
  • Ctrl-f, or Right: next character
  • Alt-b: previous word
  • Alt-f: next word
  • Ctrl-a, or Home: begin of command
  • Ctrl-e, or End: end of command


  • BkSpc: delete previous character
  • Ctrl-d, or Del: delete current character
  • Alt-BkSpc: delete word to left
  • Alt-d: delete word to right
  • Ctrl-u: delete to start of command
  • Ctrl-k: delete to end of command
  • Ctrl-y: paste last cut


  • Cltr-/: undo
  • Cltr-r: incremental backward history search
  • 2
    Complement: set a shortcut for this purpose in zsh bindkey [key] vi-backward-kill-word – Vayn Sep 30 '11 at 19:36
  • Thanks. I added this to my ~/.zshrc file and it works well for me when I press Alt+Backspace: bindkey "^[^?" vi-backward-kill-word. It's not ideal. – Tim Stewart May 20 '14 at 22:13
  • Alt-Bckspc and Alt-d work well with the filepaths I've tried them on. (on bash) – demure Aug 30 '15 at 21:47

There's also unix-filename-rubout for Readline!

# in ~/.inputrc
# press ctrl-b to delete unix filename parts
# see: man bash | less -p 'unix-filename-rubout' and
#      http://www.calmar.ws/vim/vi-bash.html
set editing-mode vi
set keymap vi
"\C-b": unix-filename-rubout
  • 2
    IMHO unix-filename-rubout is the correct answer to the question asked as it deletes to slash or whitespace, whereas Alt-BkSpc will stop at characters like hyphen, underscore, dot, etc. – Steve Feb 16 '17 at 16:03

By default bash (and I'm guessing zsh) will be in emacs-mode. You could try something like this:

Esc + b will put the cursor back one word. Ctrl + k will delete until the end of the line.

Most modern shells (like bash) will implement advanced command line editing features. Those commands are either close to emacs editing (Ctrl +A for line beginning, Ctrl + E for line end, ...).

If you're familar with vi-like editors, you could try to allow vi-mode.

set -o vi

It gives your shell vi-like modes (command mode/insert mode), and you get access to the standard commands (d for delete, r for replace, ...)

In Vi Mode, here's how you would do what you described:

Esc (command mode); d; b.
  • 1
    I would not say "Command line editing is even more powerful and complete in vi-mode", emacs mode has commands to do everything you can do in vi mode. – enzotib Sep 30 '11 at 16:35
  • I admit I got a bit carried away. I'll rephrase this. – rahmu Sep 30 '11 at 16:36
  • Thanks for reminding me there is vi-mode in bash, so I can use db in this scenario in bash. I also found vi-backward-kill-word in zsh is what I want, and it is more convenient than set vi-mode in bash. But I still want to find an emacs mode shortcut for this purpose in bash. – Vayn Sep 30 '11 at 17:07
  • Or "alt-b-C". This way doesn't leave a trailing character, which db does in some cases. – Wildcard Nov 2 '16 at 0:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.