Similar to the 5000 line limitation problem when first thing in .bashrc I have export HISTSIZE=10001 and export HISTFILESIZE=$HISTSIZE

My users do not have ~/.inputrc files and the system-wide /etc/inputrc file, unchanged default for Ubuntu 11.10, does not have any history-size defined. Nor does the readline man page show any default for it, except implying (0) or unlimited.

Yet every time I login my prompt shows that I have only 5000, despite having added many more unique command lines during my last session, or saving with history -w without having logged off.

Where is this limitation set and how can I override it?

My prompt and other possibly interesting settings from ~/.bashrc or files it sources:

PS1='\u@\h\w \d,\t\$ (\!) '
export HISTIGNORE="[   ]*:&:bg:fg:exit"
export PROMPT_COMMAND="history -a"  
shopt -s histappend
HISTTIMEFORMAT="%Y-%m-%d_%H-%M-%S " 
shopt -s histreedit

Example prompt:

master@quant~/dev Mon Feb 27,10:08:29$ (5721)

To answer some comments:

# to unpollute from other concurrent sessions, which previously already truncated file to 5000 at login:
master@ventana~ Mon Feb 27,18:47:35$ (9220) history -w  

master@ventana~ Mon Feb 27,18:51:34$ (9220) history |wc
   9219   69109  795143
master@ventana~ Mon Feb 27,18:51:51$ (9220) wc -l ~/.bash_history
18442 /home/master/.bash_history

# ignoring timestamps, nominally every other line like #1328201645
master@ventana~ Mon Feb 27,18:51:58$ (9220) grep -vc "^#[0-9]\{10\}$" .bash_history
  • Show us how you setup your prompt in your bash init file.
    – Kyle Jones
    Feb 27, 2012 at 2:09
  • 1
    Also please show wc -l ~/.bash_history
    – bsd
    Feb 27, 2012 at 11:58

1 Answer 1


I may have a working theory on this.

Previously I had


However actual lines in ~/.bash_history appear like

wizmo reboot!
sc stop uxsms; sleep 1; sc start UxSms

In other words, every other line is a timestamp due to my HISTTIMEFORMAT="%Y-%m-%d_%H-%M-%S " shell environment setting.

So for a history of 5000 commands, 10000 lines in the file would be needed.

Now I set the limit to HISTSIZE=20001

and finally see my prompt keeping more that 5000 history commands after a fresh new login.

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