The contents of the command history file using history | less is:

555 ls
556 ls -a
557 echo "hello"
558 echo "hello again"
559 cd
560 pwd
561 echo "hello hello"
562 ls
563 echo "hello hello hello"
564 cd
565 pwd

I want to use reverse i search (reverse-i-search)`echo': to cycle through only commands in the command history file matching the pattern (i.e. in this case `echo') entered on the command line prompt, preferably until a specified line number in the command history file so that I only select previously used echo commands that I want to run again not all echo commands in the command history file

Using reverse i search finds the most recent usage of the command echo (hence the name reverse i search i.e. reverse searching for a command). However when scrolling forward in reverse order (i.e. reverse searching) bash scrolls through each line of the command history file starting from the line returned by the reverse i search, thus including commands I don't want to search for.

  1. The reverse i search prompt (reverse-i-search)`echo': disappears once you start scrolling through the history list. How do you prevent the reverse i search prompt from disappearing during scrolling so that when you scroll forward in a reverse i search only the commands matching the pattern are shown?
  2. If 1 is possible then how do you temporarily limit the reverse i search to a specific line number in the command history file in order to only select commands from a section of the command history file?

Note: a solution to this question would also be useful for those times when you have several instances of the same command line arguments and reverse i search does not find the one you're looking for

  • Which shell are you using?
    – Philippos
    Jun 26, 2019 at 10:37
  • @Philippos bash
    – bit
    Jul 1, 2019 at 20:30

1 Answer 1


Once you have entered your search term, use:

  • Ctrlr to search "up" for the previous command, and
  • Ctrls to switch direction and search "down" for the next one.

I have no idea how to limit the number of history entries to scan.

  • <kbd>Ctrl</kbd><kbd>r</kbd> scrolls forward through lines in the history file containing the text pattern "echo" but <kbd>Ctrl</kbd><kbd>s</kbd> freezes the terminal for me. It seems I need to put the command stty -xion in the start up script ~/.bashrc to be able to step forward in matching command lines using <kbd>Ctrl</kbd><kbd>s</kbd> without freezing the terminal 12. Perhaps you could update your post with this caveat and the workaround I mentioned
    – bit
    Jul 1, 2019 at 19:35
  • Feel free to post your own answer and accept it. Jul 1, 2019 at 22:41

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.