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I recently switched from bash to zsh. In bash, one way (besides recursive search) that I used to find previously-run commands was history | grep whatever, where whatever is the bit of command I remember.

In zsh, this isn't working. history returns only a few items, even though my .zsh_history file contains many entries, which I have configured it to do.

How can I output my whole history, suitable for searching with grep?

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up vote 17 down vote accepted

History accepts a range in zsh entries as [first] [last] arguments, so to get them all run history 0.

To get the zsh help (at least with mind) type Alt-h over the history command and this will bring up the help for built-ins.

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Great! That's an annoying default for me, though, so I'm adding this to my aliases file: alias history="history 0" – Nathan Long Jan 12 '11 at 22:06
Not that it matters but the history list starts at 1 and not 0. – ggustafsson Dec 2 '11 at 14:40
I'm using this alias myself: alias h='history 1 | grep' – Harald Nordgren Apr 2 at 15:03

The accepted answer is correct, but it’s worth noting that you don’t need to call the external grep binary to do the search, since that ability is baked in. I have this function defined in my .zshrc:

histsearch() { fc -lim "$@" 1 }


  • fc is the zsh builtin that controls the interactive history. history is equivalent to fc -l.

  • The -m flag requires a pattern, which must be quoted.

  • The -i flag adds a timestamp.

  • fc has many more tricks up its sleeve (e.g. limiting the search to internal history for the current session). See the zshbuiltins(1) man page or the official documentation.

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