I want to find word abc in a string (I only want the exact word abc, not words that contain abc) but I get the following error:

echo "asjhdhahsjdajhsdabcasjdhas abc asdasdabc" | grep <abc>

bash: syntax error near unexpected token `newline'


You want -o (show the matched string only) and -w (match pattern as a whole word only)

$ echo "asjhdhahsjdajhsdabcasjdhas abc asdasdabc" | grep -ow abc

Thanks to steeldriver for explaining how you can actually use the < and > instead of -w to indicate word boundaries. They should be \< and \> but the backslashes have to be quoted to be passed to grep as well as the < symbols, since they also have special meaning to the shell. So strong-quote the expression like this:

echo "asjhdhahsjdajhsdabcasjdhas abc asdasdabc" | grep -o '\<abc\>'

or go crazy with the backslashes:

echo "asjhdhahsjdajhsdabcasjdhas abc asdasdabc" | grep -o \\\<abc\\\>
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  • 2
    I think the OP was probably trying to use the \< and \> GNU word boundaries i.e. grep '\<abc\>' (equivalent to your -w flag - or POSIX '\babc\b') – steeldriver Oct 31 '16 at 23:28
  • Thanks, yeah that works. As @steeldriver has mentioned I was trying to use word boundries as it is suggested in here: linuxnix.com/regular-expressions-linux-i – Farhad Nov 1 '16 at 0:43
  • @steeldriver indeed, I was confused by how I don't get any output when I tried escaping them... hmm! – Zanna Nov 1 '16 at 9:03
  • 1
    @Zanna I think it should work if you escape both the backslashes and >,< chars i.e. \\\<abc\\\> – steeldriver Nov 1 '16 at 12:59

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