I would like to list the files recursively and uniquely that contain the given word.

Example: Checking for word 'check', I normal do is a grep

$ grep check * -R

But as there are many occurrence of this word, I get a lot of output. So I just need to list the filenames that contain the given search word. I guess some trick with find and xargs would suffice here, but not sure.

Any ideas?

7 Answers 7


Use the -l or --files-with-matches option which is documented as follows:

Suppress normal output; instead print the name of each input file from which output would normally have been printed. The scanning will stop on the first match. (-l is specified by POSIX.)

So, for you example you can use the following:

$ grep check * -lR
  • Works on MSYS too. Great!
    – Kos
    Feb 18, 2013 at 16:38
  • 6
    I used grep -rl "text to find" "/usr/share" and it worked great!
    – Shrout1
    Dec 14, 2016 at 14:12
  • Is there a way to do the same thing but skip files above certain size (i.e. not scanning files greater than 50MB)
    – kashmoney
    Oct 8, 2021 at 16:21
find . -type f -exec grep -l check {} +

You probably don't want to use the -R option which with modern versions of GNU grep follows symlinks when descending directories. Use the -r option instead there which since version 2.12 (April 2012) no longer follows symlinks.

If your grep is not the GNU one, or is older than version 2.12, or if you need your code to be portable to non-bleeding-edge-GNU systems, use the find command above.

Otherwise, you can do:

grep -rl check .

Don't use * (as that would omit hidden files in the current directory (and in the current directory only) and would cause problems for files whose name starts with a -), avoid passing options after arguments as that's not guaranteed to work depending on the environment and is not portable.


Try this:

find . -type f | xargs grep -c check $1 | grep -v ":0"

As for the grep flags ...

-c will return a filename followed by : and a number indicating how many times the search string appears in the given file.

-v will take the output from the first grep search, filter out the files with zero results, and print out just the files with non-zero results.

  • This will get a false negative if you have file(s) (or director(ies)) whose names contain :0. It's better to do grep -v ':0$'. Even that will choke on pathnames that contain newline(s).
    – Scott
    Jul 23, 2016 at 6:01

grep -lR "text-to-find" <where-to-find> also works fine.

e.g., grep -lR "NAVIGATE" . where we find the word NAVIGATE in the . in the current directory.


grep -rin "whatToFind" locationToFInd

e.g $ grep -rin "vihaan" .

will recursively search and list file names and the corresponding lines which have "vihaan" in them , "." refers to the current directory.

find . -type f | grep "keyword" *

search in current directory. To lookup from root, specify / instead of .

 grep -rli trim \` find . -name *.q \` 

Give you the list of .q files contains the keyword trim

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.