I'm working on reorganizing my .bashrc. I moved my aliases to .bash_aliases (which is sourced by .bashrc, but I can't figure out how to enable syntax highlighting for this file. vim seems unable to figure out what language the file is in. It works fine for .bashrc. Any ideas?

4 Answers 4


Go to vim and run:


Usually the value will be something like:
Then edit (using root) the file /usr/share/vim/vim72/filetype.vim
Search for bashrc.
You will find a line that looks like this:

au BufNewFile,BufRead .bashrc*,bashrc,bash.bashrc,.bash_profile*,.bash_logout*,*.bash,*.ebuild call SetFileTypeSH("bash")

Edit the line and add your filename (.bash_aliases) to it.

That's it, now it should work.

  • Perfect! This solved my problem.
    – Matthew
    Oct 7, 2010 at 19:39
  • 5
    You shouldn't edit the vim distribution (files in /usr/share/vim). Your changes may be overwritten when you update vim. Instead, you should create your own script that does the same (or adding that line to your vimrc would do it).
    – idbrii
    Sep 9, 2011 at 19:13

The answer is in this: vimdoc - setf but to throw you a bone, if you just want the syntax & syntax highlighting to work you can do:

  :setf bash

Another possiability which I just realized when I was answering another VIM question was that you could also add this section to your .vimrc file and it would automatically enable syntax highlighting for the .bash_aliases file everytime you edit it without needing a modeline or having to manually type in :setf bash each time you open the file.

if has("autocmd")
  augroup bashalias
    autocmd BufRead,BufNewFile .bash_aliases set filetype=bash
  augroup END

Thirdly as Mugen Kenichi below in the comments points out, you could also add a modeline to the .bash_alias file also as such:

# vim: set filetype=bash: 
  • and/or add a modeline to your bash file vimdoc.sourceforge.net/htmldoc/options.html#modeline Aug 20, 2010 at 19:17
  • @Mugen Kenichi - Oh good catch there! I never use modeline but I've seen it in files before.
    – Pharaun
    Aug 20, 2010 at 19:43
  • 3
    This really helped me a lot, thanks guys. One thing I had to do, was I had to set the filetype to sh instead of bash, but I should probably just find a good bash vim file instead, as that would solve my problem as well :p
    – icco
    Sep 28, 2010 at 17:44
  • 1
    My VIM 7.3 from cygwin also does not know about "filetype=bash". If you read through filetype.vim, "sh" is used as filetype for all other bash patterns. Oct 31, 2013 at 18:42
  • Despite the fact I think the .vimrc edit is more reliable, VIM modelines are just awesome! Thanks.
    – 4wk_
    May 9, 2018 at 14:17

Add the following line to ~/.vimrc (create it if it does not exist).

au BufNewFile,BufRead .bash_aliases call SetFileTypeSH("bash")

Follow up on @Pharaun's answer for vim 8 and multiple alias files. In order to get the highlighting correct there were two settings I had to do. First in the new .bash_aliases file:

# vim: set filetype=bash

As well as the check in my .vimrc

if has("autocmd")
  augroup bashalias
    autocmd BufRead,BufNewFile *_aliases set filetype=sh
  augroup END

Notice the filetype is sh as well as the * wildcard for multiple filenames.

Not sure why both these settings are needed. I tried to use just one setting but both combos were needed for the highlighting to be correct.

  • I use vim 8 but I don't need the modeline (# vim ...). Just set the filetype to sh in my vimrc does the trick. Somehow the filetype should not bash but just sh. May 15, 2018 at 0:11

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