I often press the wrong combination of keys and open some obscure minibuffer mode. I have to press ESC three times (I think), which is pretty annoying. How do I make emacs quit the minibuffer with just one press of ESC?

  • 2
    C-g should default to abort-recursive-edit which will exit the minibuffer, unless you have another recursive-edit active. You could also write your own function using top-level which aborts all levels of recursive-edit and exits the minibuffer. I like a custom function written by Stefan which lets me control the escape key to use it as both a modifier key and also as a key that works with just one press: stackoverflow.com/questions/20026083/…
    – lawlist
    Aug 12, 2014 at 7:26
  • Can this be moved to SO so that I can place a bounty on the question and get some usable elisp? Aug 13, 2014 at 3:53
  • Here is something like what you are seeking, but it is not recommended. You can always comment it out later if you decide you want the default behavior: (global-set-key (kbd "<escape>") 'top-level) (define-key minibuffer-local-map "<escape>" 'top-level) (define-key minibuffer-local-ns-map "<escape>" 'top-level) (define-key minibuffer-local-completion-map "<escape>" 'top-level) (define-key minibuffer-local-must-match-map "<escape>" 'top-level) (define-key minibuffer-local-isearch-map "<escape>" 'top-level) My recommendation, however, is to use the function written by Stefan (above).
    – lawlist
    Aug 13, 2014 at 4:04

5 Answers 5


Thanks for all your ideas. Seems like this should do the trick:

(define-key minibuffer-local-map (kbd "ESC") 'keyboard-escape-quit)

It only worked for isearch. Seems like I'd have to rebind it for every single function (smex, ibuffer, and all those other that uses the minibuffer).


I believe that ergoemacs uses the ESC key the way you want. It also changes lots of other Emacs key bindings - but probably in ways that agree with your desire to "avoid long emacsy keypresses".

[Caveat: I am no expert on ergoemacs, and I do not recommend using ESC that way. ESC has a particular role in Emacs wrt the Meta modifier and keymaps, and treating it otherwise is asking for trouble sooner or later. (Similarly, C-g is fundamental to Emacs, and is even hard-coded in some cases, so it is not 100% replaceable by another key.)]


I usually use the following key combination: Ctrl-X (enter command-mode) K (Kill), then Enter.

This should kill the current mini-buffer.

  • Thanks, but I am looking to avoid long emacsy keypresses. That is one more keypress than I currently use (ESC ESC ESC); I'd just like to press ESC once to exit the minibuffer. Aug 12, 2014 at 9:20

I wanna do similar thing: press ESC to cancel the save-buffers-kill-terminal function during the "Save file" prompt.

I tried to rebind ESC in many minibuffer keymaps as mentioned in this Q&A. However, I still cannot cancel the "Save file" prompt by ESC.

After digging some elisp source codes, I found that query-replace-map is the keymap-parent of map-y-or-n-p, which is used by save-buffers-kill-terminal. So my final fix is:

(define-key query-replace-map (kbd "<escape>") 'keyboard-quit)

Note that it disables all shortcuts with meta key.


What you probably want is to use minibuffer-setup-hook to bind ESC in every minibuffer's local map (that way, your "ESC" keybind should usually win against whatever the current function or mode is doing, even if it's using a different key map).

    (add-hook 'minibuffer-setup-hook (lambda ()
        (local-set-key (kbd "ESC") 'abort-minibuffers))

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