I was reading the manpages for bash on the plane and I stumbled across the HISTIGNORE variable. To test it out, I immediately edited my .profile to define this variable:

export HISTIGNORE=ls

I tested it out and this is great! It excludes plain 'ls' commands from my history without excluding more interesting commands with lengthy paths, but having recently harvested a great deal of wisdom from SU I am eager to know what other commands superusers might recommend or other lessons learned.

What can you share about using the HISTIGNORE variable in bash?

2 Answers 2


I ignore ls without commands, bg, fg, exit, pwd, clear, mount and umount:

If you include this in your HISTIGNORE string you can suppress anything as you wish by adding a space at the front of the command:

"[ \t]*" 

This is my HISTIGNORE:

HISTIGNORE="&:ls:[bf]g:exit:pwd:clear:mount:umount:[ \t]*"

I've excluded some other stuff that I have in there that are repetitive commands that are unique to my server. Anything you do that is simple is a good thing to exclude.

I have other stuff which I have forgotten to add but I'm miles away from my Linux box so I am going off of memory.

  • 9
    If the value of HISTCONTROL includes "ignorespace" or "ignoreboth", commands that begin with a space are omitted from history. If the value includes "ignore dups" or "ignoreboth", it's the same as "&" in HISTIGNORE. Jan 14, 2011 at 23:03
  • To me it has also proven useful to histignore the history command itself.
    – con-f-use
    Apr 17, 2013 at 21:07
  • 2
    using "[ \t]*" ignores command starting with a space or t. You want HISTIGNORE=$'&:ls:[bf]g:exit:pwd:clear:mount:umount:[ \t]*' Oct 22, 2015 at 19:11
  • 1
    Well, ignoring commands that started with a space or \t was the intention. What is that $ at the front doing there, that looks very weird, I wouldn't do it like that.
    – daparic
    Mar 27, 2021 at 11:38
  • 1
    mine is export HISTIGNORE="history:forget*" with an alias of alias forget="" . it makes not adding something to your history a little more explicit than a single space. Jun 8, 2022 at 1:50

Don't save trivial one and two character commands on the history list:


If the extglob option is enabled, you can also use extended patterns, e.g.

  • Am not sure about your ??, but sometimes I do od /path/of/important/file and I need to remember this.
    – daparic
    Mar 27, 2021 at 11:40
  • * works as an arbitrary length placeholder as well. So for example for my custom history search shortcut, I use h *, so that these searches don't show up in the history itself again. Apr 13, 2021 at 19:09

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