Normally, Ctrl+W deletes back to the last whitespace.

Is it possible to configure it to use additional characters, such as /?

Edit: To be more clear: I don't want to configure the key for it, I want to have the deletion stop on / as well.


vim /foo/bar^W
vim /foo/

5 Answers 5


For this specific issue, you can also use:

Alt + Backspace

$ cd /home/me/test/a_dir/    # Alt + Backspace
$ cd /home/me/test/          # Alt + Backspace
$ cd /home/me/               # ...

Good reference: Adventures with bash's word erase

  • 4
    Awesome! Most other answers suggest rebinding Ctrl+w or Ctrl+b or something to unix-filename-rubout, but it's so much better that there's a built-in binding: M-backspace (Alt+backspace or Esc backspace) Mar 12, 2015 at 17:51
  • 1
    Did not work for me
    – ethanjyx
    Aug 1, 2016 at 22:21
  • @ethanjyx oh. I am working on GNU bash. Are you also in this flavour?
    – fedorqui
    Aug 22, 2016 at 9:12

What worked for me was to add the following lines to my .bashrc

stty werase undef
bind '\C-w:unix-filename-rubout'

You need the undef line otherwise bash ignores your new binding for C-w

  • 6
    It should be noted that stty werase undef will stop you from using C-w in any program (bind will allow you to use in readline)
    – 0fnt
    Jul 13, 2015 at 16:58

You should be able to use Esc, then backspace to delete words delimited by slashes.

You can change this by putting this in you .bashrc:

bind '\C-f:unix-filename-rubout'

Now use Ctrl+f to do what you want.

  • 1
    thanks, that's the command that works. is there a way to overwrite the command of C-w? If I change it to C-w:..., the default behaviour of deleting to the next space still kicks in. On a different key (like F) if works fine.
    – SkaveRat
    Jan 16, 2012 at 23:37
  • I don't think ctrl-w is managed by the shell alone. It may be managed by the tty also. What are your tty setting shown by stty -a? do you have control-w as default char for werase? If you remove that setting from tty, with comman stty werase undef, does then bash works as expected?
    – eppesuig
    Dec 14, 2012 at 13:19

With bash you can get the desired effect, putting the following in your ~/.bashrc file:

bind '"\C-w":backward-kill-word'

Hit CTRL+V and the your key combination to see what it looks like for your terminal emulator. For instance CTRL+bksp can be interpreted different on different terminals e.g. ^H or ^?. The ^ character is the same as CTRL.

  • I think I wasn't specific enough with my question. I wanted to have / as an additional stop-character, not a way to bind the delete-word-command on an other key. I edited my question
    – SkaveRat
    Dec 30, 2011 at 13:28
  • Using backward-kill-word binded to \C-w, it will erase backwards to the last given forward slash if present in a word and it will erase words delimited by whitespace. This is not what you wanted?
    – user13742
    Dec 30, 2011 at 15:34
  • My system uses ^F - but using "\^F" in the script above doesn't work
    – SkaveRat
    Jan 16, 2012 at 18:53
  • 1
    The Ctrl character is written \C in the script and not \^.
    – user13742
    Jan 16, 2012 at 23:41

I'm not sure if this is specific to Mac OS, but I couldn't do a thing with C-w without also setting this readline option:

set bind-tty-special-chars Off

I added that to my ~/.inputrc, along with:

C-w: backward-kill-word

Now I'm able to delete backwards one word at a time.

Source: https://shallowsky.com/blog/linux/bash-word-erase.html

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