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UNIX in a Nutshell: System V Edition

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Previous: 6.1 Filenames Versus PatternsChapter 6
Pattern Matching
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6.2 Metacharacters, Listed by UNIX Program

Some metacharacters are valid for one program but not for another. Those that are available to a UNIX program are marked by a bullet (·) in the table below. Full descriptions are provided after the table.

SymboledexvisedawkgrepegrepAction
.·······Match any character.
*·······Match zero or more preceding.
^·······Match beginning of line.
$·······Match end of line.
\·······Escape character following.
[ ]·······Match one from a set.
\( \)···Store pattern for later replay.
\{ \}···Match a range of instances.
\< \>···Match word's beginning or end.
+··Match one or more preceding.
?··Match zero or one preceding.
|··Separate choices to match.
( )··Group expressions to match.

In ed, ex, and sed, note that you specify both a search pattern (on the left) and a replacement pattern (on the right). The metacharacters above are meaningful only in a search pattern.

In ed, ex, and sed, the following additional metacharacters are valid only in a replacement pattern:

SymbolexsededAction
\···Escape character following.
\n···Reuse pattern stored in \( \).
&··Reuse previous search pattern.
~·Reuse previous replacement pattern.
\u \U·Change character(s) to uppercase.
\l \L·Change character(s) to lowercase.
\E·Turn off previous \U or \L.
\e·Turn off previous \u or \l.


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6.1 Filenames Versus PatternsBook Index6.3 Metacharacters

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