How can I remove a certain line from history's database?


12 Answers 12


You need to log out and back in or run history -a so the current history is committed to disk.

Then just edit the file ~/.bash_history.

  • 21
    If the HISTFILE environment variable is set, the history file isn't ~/.bash_history but rather ${HISTFILE}.
    – Karolos
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 22:34
  • 21
    Entries are written into the history file when you exit the shell. Therefore, after entering a command that you'd like to remove, you need to either log out and back in, or use 'history -d xxxx' to remove them from the current shell session.
    – harmic
    Commented Jan 24, 2014 at 0:19
  • 3
    but how would you delete the record of editing the history file?
    – chiliNUT
    Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 19:54
  • 5
    @chiliNUT: Just start your command (e.g. vim ~/.bash_history) with a space; commands starting with a space usually don't get logged (see $HISTCONTROL).
    – cYrus
    Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 20:34
  • I don't think thats the case in my distribution, but in general that makes sense
    – chiliNUT
    Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 22:29

You can achieve removal from the history file using the commandline in two steps:

  1. Typing history -d <line_number> deletes a specified line from the history in memory.
  2. Typing history -w writes the current in-memory history to the ~/.bash_history file.

The two steps together remove the line permanently from the in-memory history and from the .bash_history file as well.

  • 9
    how to delete the last history -w from history?
    – Midhun KM
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 9:01
  • 1
    @KrIsHnA edit ~/.bash_history manually Commented May 23, 2015 at 6:51
  • 7
    Or add a space before it to prevent it from being added, as in @tao's answer
    – Mark
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 8:28
  • To find <line_number> just history | grep [unwanted_content] to get a list with all the lines containing [unwanted_content] (like passwords).
    – AvL
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 15:23
  • How do you delete multiple (specific) lines (by id) ?
    – Pathros
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 17:38

To prevent a command from being added to the history in the first place, make sure that the environment variable HISTCONTROL contains among its colon-separated values the value ignorespace, for example (add e.g. to .bashrc):

$ export HISTCONTROL=ignorespace

This will prevent any command with a leading space from being added to the history. You can then clear the history completely by running

$  history -c -w
  ^-- additional space character

First of all, if the command you're about to issue is sensitive, unsafe, or you just don't need it cluttering up your history, it is best/quickest to just prevent it from entering the history in the first place. Make sure that $HISTCONTROL contains ignorespace:

(bash)$ echo $HISTCONTROL

Then proceed any command you don't want in your history with a space:

(bash)$  sensitive-cmd-with --password 82cf7dfe
(bash)$  rm -r... # One-off recursive remove; mustn't be accidentally repeated!

If you accidentally put an unwanted command into history, providing that your bash session is still open, the command hasn't yet touched the disk. To delete the previous command in history, issue:

(bash)$  history -d $((HISTCMD-1))

Note the leading space; this command requires ignorespace, otherwise it'll just delete itself!

If you want to delete the last few commands, find the last and first history number:

(bash)$  history 5
  598  ok
  599  sensitive
  600  unsafe
  601  doesn\'t-work
  602  otherwise-unwanted

In this case 602 and 599. Then issue:

(bash)$  for i in {602..599}; do history -d $i; done

(Without ignorespace, it would be 603..599.)

If you don't want any history from your current session to hit the disk, exit using:

(bash)$ kill -9 $$

The approach so far is to not even let sensitive history items be written to disk for extra security, because in theory data deleted from non-volatile media can still be recovered.

If, however, the command(s) you wish to remove are from a previous session, they will have already been appended to the $HISTFILE on exit. Manipulating the history with the above commands will still only append the remaining new items to the $HISTFILE, on exit. To overwrite the $HISTFILE with the current session's view of the entire history, right now, issue:

(bash)$  history -w

Of course for history items already on disk, the alternative to editing the history with history -d commands then issuing history -w, is to edit the $HISTFILE with a text editor.

  • 1
    ”Manipulating the history with the above commands will still only append the remaining new items to the $HISTFILE, on exit.” Actually, this isn't exactly true. It seems to only append remaining new items that ‘stick out’ from the original history length. E.g. If I remove 5 original items and add 15 new, only the last 10 new are appended, whereas I'd expect all 15 new to be appended. I think this is a bug because I can't see how this is ever desirable functionality. Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 15:59
  • 1
    I guess bash takes note of the original length. On session close, it presumably appends items whose number is greater than this value. If this value was decremented every time an item is deleted whose number is less than or equal to this value, it would work as expected. ;-) Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 16:06

Several techniques:

Prevent sensitive information from being stored in the history file

If you've entered some password on a command line, then realize that all commands are logged, you could either:

  1. Force exit the current session without saving history:

     kill -9 $$

    This will drop all current history.

    1. As correctly pointed out by S0AndS0'comment, another way is to modify history file name:

  2. Type ↑ (up arrow) in the open bash session until the sensitive information is shown, then use line editing keystrokes like Ctrl+W to delete the sensitive info, and then ↓ (down arrow) until a new empty line is prompted, before typing Enter.

Delete sensitive information from the history file

If you realize that sensitive information is already stored, and you want to delete it, but not your entire history:

A simple sed command could do the job:

sed -e '/SeNsItIvE InFo/d' -i .bash_history

but, as you type this, you create another history line containing the search pattern (sensitive info) you are trying to delete. So you could:

sed -e "/$(head -n1)/d" -i .bash_history

This will run head -n1 with input from the terminal. It will appear that your terminal is hung (there won't be a prompt); just type the information that you want to delete from the file. This is a trick to let you enter (part of) a command without actually typing it into the command line, thus making it ineligible for inclusion in the history record. Then sed will use the text that you typed to search .bash_history and delete all lines containing the sensitive info. Note: if your sensitive information pattern contains slash(es), you must escape them with backslashes, or else change the sed command to use this syntax to specify a delimiter that does not appear in the pattern:

sed -e "\|$(head -n1)|d" -i .bash_history

Another way could be to delete only the sensitive info, but keep the commands that contain the information. For this, you could simply replace sensitive info with substitute text of your choice:

sed -e "s/$(head -n1)/Santa Claus/g" -i .bash_history.

Delete sensitive information from any file in a specific tree

Finally, to be sure that this won't stay in another forgotten file:

SENSITIVEINFO="$(head -n1)"
find . -type f -print0 | xargs -0 grep -l "$SENSITIVEINFO"

will list all concerned files.

find . -type f -print0 |
    xargs -0 grep -lZ "$SENSITIVEINFO" |
    xargs -0 sed -e "s/$SENSITIVEINFO/Santa Claus/g" -i

will replace all occurrences of sensitive info in all files in the directory tree rooted at .. Note: even though this command uses xargs -0, it will not handle files with newlines in their names.

  • Combining tricks from a related answer it should be possible to delete SeNsItIvE InFo and the sed command doing the deletion on the same line with something like sed -e '/SeNsItIvE InFo/d' -i .bash_history; history -d $((HISTCMD-1))
    – S0AndS0
    Commented Nov 2, 2019 at 4:25
  • You don't need kill -9 $$ to exit with out saving the history. Just run HISTFILE=. Then when you exit the history is not saved.
    – jcoffland
    Commented Aug 21, 2023 at 10:28
  • @jcoffland You're right! But which one are more simpler / intuitive ?? Anyway, I've edited my answer to add your purpose... Commented Aug 21, 2023 at 11:56

Locate the line you want to delete by pressing ↑ (up arrow) until it appears, then press Ctrl+U. That should remove the line.

If you use the history command, you can see the line has been substituted with an asterisk.

  • 2
    Actually, I believe that you must cursor up to the line, press Ctrl+U, and then cursor up or down to another line (possibly the blank one at the bottom of the list).  Also, strictly speaking, the line hasn't been substituted with an asterisk.  Rather, the command has been erased, and the history number has been appended with a *. Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 16:47
  • 2
    This becomes much more powerful with Ctrl+R (reverse incremental history search), then e.g. [End], Ctrl+U
    – sehe
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 12:13

If you need to remove several lines at the same time I normally use this:

history | grep <string> | cut -d ' ' -f 3 | awk '{print "history -d " $1}'

If you need to remove the last command you can use:

history -d $((HISTCMD-2))
  • 2
    This looked like it worked but history | grep <string> still shows all the lines it claimed to delete... Commented Apr 19, 2013 at 0:09
  • 1
    This will delete the wrong history lines after deleting the fisrt!!
    – mivk
    Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 14:51
  • 1
    But fortunately, it only prints the wrong delete commands. The following would print the correct delete commands: history | grep XYZ | grep -v grep | tac | awk '{print "history -d", $1}'
    – mivk
    Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 15:17

If you need to remove a range of lines from history, the following bash function could save you some time:

function histdel() {
    [ $# -eq 1 ] && history -d "$1" && history -w
    if [ $# -eq 2 -a "$1" -le "$2" ]; then
        for n in `seq "$2" "$1"`; do
            history -d "$n"
        history -w

Function should be typically added to $HOME/.bashrc. To use the function imediatelly, you will need to have the file read again by your running shell (. $HOME/.bashrc). Then to delete e.g. commands 200-210 from history:

$ histdel 200 210

(Note: This question is among the top search results if you search for deleting a range of commands from bash history. So, while the above is more than what the question asks, it could be useful for some readers.)

  • 3
    Alternative forms for the for statement: for n in $(seq "$2" "$1") is stylistically preferred by some, and, if seq doesn’t work, try for ((n="$2"; n>="$1"; n--)). Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 18:11
  • couldn't get this to work - although the premise of using bashrc functions as integrated user-space commands was fun to play with. Commented Jun 15, 2021 at 22:11
history | sed -i 59d

59 is the line number. Cannot be anything sweeter than this :)


Just try these,

$ history

this will display the id of the history and the command, e.g.

211 ls
212 javac Welcome.java
213 java welcome


$ history -d 211

Here 211 is the id of the history. Now check this using

$ history

211 javac Welcome.java
212 java welcome


I know it's been a long time since this question has been asked and answered but I'll show you my method for cleaning my history file and logging out at the same time.

I run : history -w && nano "${HISTFILE}" && history -c && exit

What it does is simple:

  1. history -w : writes cached history inside "${HISTFILE}"
  2. nano "${HISTFILE}" : allow me to edit "${HISTFILE}" You could use a sed script or whatever your want to clean your "${HISTFILE}"
  3. history -c : clear cached history so this last command is not appended.
  4. exit : log me out appending cached history... but it is empty ;)

After that command, you'll be logged out with a clean history file. Log in to check your history ;)

I hope this will help someone.


You could also edit the history file directly, eg nano .bash_history if you are in the bash shell?

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