I've used the below command to count the number of words in a file:

tr ' ' '\n' < Filename | grep -c "WORD"

This returns the word list with counter. Now I want to count the number of words of a particular length. For example, given a file with these contents:

employee paresh emp employee jayesh hitesh

When I run the shell script with argument 6, it should display/count words with 6 characters (paresh, jayesh, and hitesh, with count 3). How can I do that?

2 Answers 2


If you grep for the regular expression ^.{6}$ it will return lines with exactly six characters:

$ tr ' ' '\n' < Filename | grep '^.\{6\}$'

$ tr ' ' '\n' < Filename | grep -c '^.\{6\}$'
  • Thanx for the support, it is running fine !! but can you please let me know about this : .\{6\} , that you have used with grep command. Jan 3, 2011 at 7:39
  • what about \ sign before { and } ?? please Jan 3, 2011 at 10:24
  • @Paresh Otherwise grep will look for { and } symbols, but not 6 repetitions of preceeding pattern.
    – alex
    Jan 3, 2011 at 11:50
  • Argh. I accidentally deleted a comment trying to edit it; sorry whoever's that was. @Paresh As that comment pointed out, it's to escape the braces so they're treated as part of the regular expression (X{Y} means "find the X character Y times"); without the escapes it searches for actual braces Jan 4, 2011 at 15:28
  • thanx a lot for such helpful hints and answer. Thanx once again Jan 5, 2011 at 6:04


awk -v n=6 '{for (i=1; i<=NF; i++) if (length($i) == n) print $i}' file

or, with tr

tr ' ' '\n' file | awk -v n=6 'length($0)==n'
  • Or just use NF, you don't need to iterate to find the number of fields.
    – Chris Down
    Dec 11, 2012 at 16:24
  • Sorry @ChrisDown, I don't understand your comment. Use NF where? Dec 11, 2012 at 16:56
  • Oh, apologies, I misunderstood the intent of the question (misread as 6 fields rather than six characters in a field).
    – Chris Down
    Dec 11, 2012 at 17:02
  • awk '{ print length($NF) }' filename | sort | uniq -c was useful to count word sizes in last column of a file. thanks
    – roblogic
    Nov 10, 2017 at 0:51

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