How can I get/filter history entries in a specific range?

I have a large history file and frequently use

history | grep somecommand

Now, my memory is pretty bad and I also want to see what else I did around the time I entered the command.

For now I do this: get match, say 4992 somecommand, then I do

history | grep 49[0-9][0-9]

this is usually good enough, but I would much rather do it more precisely, that is see commands from 4972 to 5012, that is 20 commands before and 20 after.

I am wondering if there is an easier way? I suspect, a custom script is in order, but perhaps someone else has done something similar before.


3 Answers 3


You can tell grep to print some lines surrounding the match, e.g., 3 before and 5 after:

history | grep -B 3 -A 5 somecommand

grep -C 4 is equivalent to grep -A 4 -B 4.

But often you won't know precisely how many lines you want in advance. So use less and search inside it. You can even launch the search from the command line:

history | less +/somecommand
  • 1
    very cool trick with less! Didn't know you could do that
    – warren
    Oct 4, 2010 at 23:22
  • Very nice indeed... I can see "around" the command I'm looking for, even when I'm not really looking for it specifically but I remember using it when I used another relevant command! Good stuff tnx. Apr 2, 2019 at 16:44

Try fc:

fc -l 4972 5012

... it is a bash builtin command. (so don't try it in tcsh :>)


try history | grep -C20 '^4992'


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