Suppose I want to execute a sequence of four commands that I have executed before. If the first one is 432 in the command-history, then I could do:

$ !432; !433; !434; !435

I'm curious, is there a more efficient way to accomplish this?

  • 1
    Not posting this as an answer because it doesn't execute the commands, but you could type history -p \!43{2..5} to print commands 432 through 435 to the terminal, suitable for subsequent copy/paste.
    – Wildcard
    Mar 30, 2016 at 0:28

6 Answers 6


If it refers to commands run just recently, a more efficient way is to reference them with negative numbers:

!-4; !-3; !-2; !-1

Also, once you do it, your last history entry will contain the whole chain of commands, so you can repeat it with !!.

Edit: If you haven't already, get familiar with the great builtin function fc, mentioned by Gilles. (Use help fc.) It turns out that you can also use negative numbers with it, so you could do the same as above using

eval "`fc -ln -4 -1`"

This has one caveat, though: after this, the eval line is stored in the history as the last command. So if you run this again, you'll fall into a loop!

A safer way of doing this is to use the default fc operation mode: forwarding the selected range of commands to an editor and running them once you exit from it. Try:

 fc -4 -1

You can even reverse the order of the range of commands: fc -1 -4

  • I just read what I'd written... LOL. Actually, I'm not sure about reinvoke (re-invoke maybe?), but thanks for telling :) I always appreciate corrections. Nov 16, 2011 at 19:38
  • Scrabblefinder.com says reinvoke is a valid Scrabble word. Can't get any more definitive than that. :)
    – BentFX
    Nov 16, 2011 at 19:47
  • 1
    With a good answer like this one (+1), it doesn't matter how you spell it; especially as neither spelling form shows up in 3 major English dictionaries: Oxford, Camgridge, Merriam-Webster (I'd go for the hyphen)
    – Peter.O
    Nov 17, 2011 at 4:55

To view a range of commands in the history use the built-in fc command:

fc -ln 432 435

To execute them again:

eval "$(fc -ln 432 435)"
  • 5
    Very nice. I'm curious though, why man fc doesn't give me anything. What does fc stand for? What other options are there? Nov 17, 2011 at 3:00
  • 2
    @Eric Wilson ... type help fc... and also help help .... help: help [-dms] [pattern ...] Display information about builtin commands.
    – Peter.O
    Nov 17, 2011 at 4:57
  • I just came back here, searching for your answer. This really is a great builtin! Especially when you is its default functionality - invoking an editor to modify a range of commands to be replayed. Thanks, Gilles. Jul 24, 2012 at 7:21
  • 1
    Without -l flag, it will execute without need for the evil eval.
    – Bernhard
    Dec 9, 2013 at 14:59
  • 1
    @EricWilson A google search lead me to the "Unix in a Nutshell" book which says fc stands for "find command" or "fix command".
    – Slothworks
    Oct 20, 2015 at 5:49

There is a nice and alternate way to run a number of commands in sequence from the Bash history:
instead of using history substitute (!432 or !-4), you can search through the history with Ctrl+r, and once you've found the first command you want to run, hit Ctrl+o (operate-and-get-next) instead of the return key
This will launch the command and propose the next one from the history. You can hit Ctrl+o as many time as you wish, and end the sequence either with return for a last one, or Ctrl+c to stop without launching it.

  • 1
    Hmm, after I hit Ctrl-o it just outputs a literal ^o and breaks my (reverse-i-search). Maybe there is some other setting involved. Mar 11, 2018 at 11:50
  • thank you very much! couldn't recall the combination and had hard time finding it, although the combination is quite simple
    – Trolzen
    Jul 23, 2021 at 2:39

To execute the commands immediately rather than edit them, here is a syntactically slimmer version of Giles answer using eval:

fc -e: 432 435

The colon argument to -e is the bash noop, which has the effect of skipping the "open in an editor" step that fc wants. Also, now the (recent) history will contain the actual commands from history, rather than the eval statement.

  • 1
    this is the most practical answer
    – mCeviker
    May 1, 2020 at 15:21

fc for loop and xsel

This works well when I want to concatenate and re-run the last n commands multiple times:

fcn() (
  if [ "$from" -ne "$to" ]; then
    for i in `seq "$from" -1 "$(($to + 1))"`; do
      printf "$(fc -ln -${i} -${i}) && "
  printf "$(fc -ln -${to} -${to})"


$ echo a
$ echo b
$ echo c
$ fcn 3 1 | xsel -b
$ # Paste.
$  echo a &&  echo b &&  echo c
$ # Paste again if you feel like it.
$  echo a &&  echo b &&  echo c

Or for larger commands that might need some editing:

fcn 3 1 >cmds.sh
vi cmds.sh
bash cmds.sh
bash cmds.sh
fcn 3 1 >cmds.sh
vi cmds.sh
bash cmds.sh
bash c
  • I'm not sure that redirection, editing, executing a script, and then potentially removing the temporary file is a "more efficient way to accomplish this".
    – Jeff Schaller
    Apr 14, 2020 at 19:55
  • Also, what's the intention behind bash c?
    – Jeff Schaller
    Apr 14, 2020 at 19:55

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