Search Multiple Words / String Pattern Using grep Command

by on April 5, 2008 · 88 comments· LAST UPDATED August 10, 2012

in , ,

How do I search multiple strings or words using the grep command? For example I'd like to search word1, word2, word3 and so on within /path/to/file. How do I force grep to search multiple words?

The grep command supports regular expression pattern. To search multiple words, use following syntax:
grep 'word1\|word2\|word3' /path/to/file
In this example, search warning, error, and critical words in a text log file called /var/log/messages, enter:
$ grep 'warning\|error\|critical' /var/log/messages
To just match words, add -w swith:
$ grep -w 'warning\|error\|critical' /var/log/messages
egrep command can skip the above syntax and use the following syntax:
$ egrep -w 'warning|error|critical' /var/log/messages
I recommend that you pass the -i (ignore case) and --color option as follows:
$ egrep -wi --color 'warning|error|critical' /var/log/messages
Sample outputs:

Fig.01: Linux / Unix egrep Command Search Multiple Words Demo Output

Fig.01: Linux / Unix egrep Command Search Multiple Words Demo Output

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{ 88 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ayman Elkazzaz June 19, 2008 at 11:20 pm

you forget “\” so the command to search multiple string using grep as following
grep ‘warning\|error\|critical’ /var/log/messages


2 Matt January 18, 2012 at 10:44 am

Thank you for this. I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working.


3 David March 23, 2012 at 1:36 pm

And why did Vivek not correct this yet?



4 Aswin August 10, 2012 at 10:57 am

This is the first result in google. Please make this correction.


5 nixCraft August 10, 2012 at 11:15 am

The faq has been updated.

Appreciate all feedback.


6 khali February 28, 2014 at 2:59 pm

thanks. it helped


7 S. Mohana July 16, 2008 at 4:39 am

It is good explain for grep

but i want find out one particular string from another string. shall i use grep.


8 John September 17, 2008 at 2:37 pm

Thanks for the article. Is there a way to supply the words in a file? So in your example I could create a simple file containing:


I have over 200 words that I need to search – which is tiresome to put onto the command line.



9 nixCraft September 17, 2008 at 4:24 pm

Use the -f FILE option to obtain patterns from FILE, one per line:
grep -f words.txt /var/log/messages



10 Hemal July 7, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Fantastic !! I had a scenario where in I had to pick up lines from a log file based on a word. Unfortunately I had 1000 such words and so it would have been difficult to find 1000 lines. But this solution really helped. Thanks.


11 Mats August 30, 2011 at 12:37 pm


I have a requirement in which I would need to grep/find a line based on matching 3 different patterns. I know we can grep with -E multiple parameters seprated by pipe but this work Pipe (|) as OR condition. My requirement is I want to use AND condition. It should show line where it satisfy both the parameter.
e.g. line in a file as —
10-Aug-2010 Hello, this is a new example for unix.
I need to show this line only when my grep command matches all 3 words
this, new, unix How to right such grep command ?


12 pop richards August 30, 2011 at 12:56 pm

grep -n “$search1″ . | grep -n “$search2″ | grep -n “$search3″

after the first grep only statements “search1″ will come. this is filtered by the next grep creating and AND condition.

this is a round about solution coming out the top of my mind. if i find a better solution i’ll post it.


13 bharath May 7, 2012 at 10:48 am

this dint work for me:(

i used the cmd like grep -il SDI *.sql | grep -il Account *.sql | grep -il Customer *.sql
My requirement is as follows :

in the current folder, inside the files with extension .sql, i need to get the files hwich have SDI,Account and Costomer words in it.


14 pop richards May 7, 2012 at 1:09 pm

-l, –files-with-matches
Suppress normal output; instead print the name of each input file from which output would normally have been printed. The scanning
will stop on the first match.

did -l work for u??


15 pfaure February 4, 2009 at 2:38 am

How do you search for 2 strings on the same line?, but return the following line?


16 bambam August 16, 2012 at 2:07 am

grep ‘matching\|\(matching again\)’


17 Nauman Ali March 5, 2009 at 10:19 am

how do we search for two words and return it when both words are exists in the line. just like AND operator.


18 maginot September 9, 2009 at 1:55 pm

just pipe two greps grep ‘hello’ file.txt | grep ‘world’


19 relesh September 23, 2009 at 8:41 am

these all are not working


grep -E -e ‘warning|critical|error’ /var/log/messages in Linux
/usr/xpg4/bin/grep -E -e ‘warning|critical|error’ /var/adm/messages


20 Michael Loutris February 14, 2015 at 12:38 am

The problem is that you need to ‘escape’ the or operator ‘|’ as shown above AND use the ‘i’ flag to be case insensitive:

grep -i 'warning\|critical\|error'  /var/adm/messages


21 relesh September 23, 2009 at 8:42 am

in solaris


22 sam August 22, 2013 at 11:46 am

It doesn’t work in Solaris. Do anyone have any commands to find multiple string (say string1 and string2) in a file and retunrs the line as well?

Thanks in advance.


23 Robert Guest September 25, 2009 at 5:39 pm

How do I only return lines that have both words in the line

grep -E “rob|bob” returns lines even if only one string is present.


24 Dr.Death October 13, 2010 at 10:57 am

echo “hi rob, where is bob?” | grep -E -o “rob|bob”

it should return:


25 anoop July 27, 2011 at 9:55 am

grep ‘rob’ | grep ‘bob’


26 bambam August 23, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Use awk.

$ echo “hi rob, where is bob” | awk '/rob/ && /bob/ {print $0}'


27 January 9, 2013 at 7:08 am

Thanks, awk saved my day ;) as i understand it’s not just awk it’s regexp too?!

so thanks again, the day was saved by the power puff girs… o0O0ops… awk and regexp!



28 Robert Guest September 25, 2009 at 5:50 pm

I figured I should be more specific in my request.

I have the following line;

/usr/bin/dsmc archive -des=”DAILY” -archm=FS_DBARCH_DAILY “/brlog1/BIDW/redo/*”

I want a grep command to return the line number of this line

grep archive filename | grep -n redo doesn’t work because it returns the number of the line in the results from the first grep.


29 Sarat December 11, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Thanks a lot.This saved my time. We have a delivery tomorrow.


30 Sasikala January 15, 2010 at 7:18 am

@Nauman Ali,

To search for two words, and to return only if both words exist in a file, use this command

grep -Rl word1 *| xargs grep -l word2


31 Subhash June 10, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Thanks….that helped


32 johnny January 15, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Sasikala: THANK YOU!!!! That was very thoughtful of you to leave that for us, I needed it bad!!! :)


33 Nagendra Prasath January 30, 2010 at 1:03 pm

grep -Rl word1 *| xargs grep -l word2… how this work?


34 karatedog February 27, 2010 at 1:50 am

“grep -Rl word1 *| xargs grep -l word2… how this work?”

It just doesn’t work.
It will return the filename where exists at least one line where the two words are present. Which is no information at all.


35 karatedog February 27, 2010 at 1:58 am

@Robert Guest:
Attach the ‘-n’ parameter to the first grep, not to the second:

grep -n archive filename | grep redo

that way the second grep will get a line that contains the line number.


36 GUSTAVO COST June 2, 2010 at 2:51 am

Just try this one:

grep word1 | grep word2


37 GUSTAVO COSTA June 2, 2010 at 2:52 am

correction … :
grep word1 filename | grep word2


38 Anthony June 20, 2011 at 10:32 pm

That won’t work if you need to check if word 1 and word2 are anywhere in the file, because the first grep returns the matching line, so the second grep would only match if both words were on the same line.


39 MUAnis July 13, 2010 at 9:53 pm

How do you search for the string below in a file using grep ?

DeptId = ‘123459’

Any help is appreciated.


40 Michael Loutris February 14, 2015 at 12:43 am

Wrap the entire search string in double quotes:

grep  "DeptId = '123459'"  *


41 Omprakash September 15, 2010 at 9:05 am


I want to search multiple string using grep and want to display only matching string.

can any one pl guide me in this regards.
cat abc.txt |grep -e ‘ab’ -e ‘bc’ -e ‘cd’

If ‘bc’ is there in the file abc.txt then output should display only ‘bc’ rather than displaying the entire line.

Thanks & Regards,

Google for: grep multiple string and returning matching string


42 Ritika December 16, 2010 at 8:31 am

How to search multiple words in separate lines, inside a directory including sub-directory? Pls. give easy example.
I tried $grep -r “word1″ |grep -r “word2″ /Folder/subfolder/ > search.log


43 richardspop March 8, 2011 at 10:07 am

$grep -r “word1″ /Folder/subfolder/ | grep “word2″ > search.log


44 vaibhav March 20, 2011 at 9:28 am


I have to grep exact line in file
for eg : file name test.txt includes
5) 1,2,3
5) 6,7,8

so i want to grep ram and 5 so the output shud be

should not be


45 karatedog March 20, 2011 at 8:03 pm

First: grep is a single line utility. And because “5)” is on two lines, grep will find them, because it walks down the lines, and matches them to your rules, period.
Second: what grep finds, that ‘entire’ line will be displayed. So it is not possible to cut the “5)” from the beginning of the line, and display the rest.
If you want to find “ram” and after that the next “5)”, you need to use some utility that allows you to implement some logic. Like awk.
However if you can ensure that “5)…” will be after the found line – like “ram” – then you can use the ‘after context’ feature of grep, whic displayes the matching lines PLUS some line after that.


46 tsg April 19, 2012 at 10:56 am

use this :

grep ‘ram|5)’ test.txt | head -2 | tr -d ‘5)’


47 kumar April 25, 2011 at 9:10 am

I need to list the files which contains the 3 strings
These all 3 strings may be in different lines.

Thanks, Kumar


48 ajorpheus May 11, 2011 at 4:25 pm

@Kumar and others

To search for multiple strings in a file try doing this :

grep -il "String1" "PATH-OF-FILE" | xargs -I % grep -H "String2" % | xargs -I % grep -H "String3" %

For eg:
Let’s say I want to search for all those log4j.xml files which have the words CONSOLE and ASYNC in them .. then this is what I would do :

find "/cygdrive/e/MyDocs/Downloads/work/OATS Domain related/" -iname "log4j*.xml" | xargs -I % grep -ilr "CONSOLE" "%" | xargs -I % grep -H "ASYNC" %



49 nithya May 17, 2011 at 10:09 am

how to search a single line using grep command..
for example a file having 100 lines in that 100 line only one error line is there.

how do i retrive that single line using grep command.. i don’t know in which line in that error msg and like that error msg many of the lines in that file.. how do i find using ‘Grep’ command..


50 richardspop May 17, 2011 at 12:09 pm

do u have any keyword to identify the error message??
for eg. if the keyword is ‘error:’


grep -rn “error:*”


51 richardspop May 17, 2011 at 12:11 pm

grep -n “error:*” filename

since its one file -r is not necessary.


52 vinoth July 14, 2011 at 5:08 am

echo year, month, Quarter,productTOT, RegionTOT,Per_type,Data_type,Bucket_noTOT,Curr_dateTOT

from this output, i want only the string that has “TOT”

so the output,

productTOT, RegionTOT,Bucket_noTOT,Curr_dateTOT

could anybody please help me???


53 Vivek August 3, 2011 at 7:05 am

Thanks a lot ,it works fine


54 Saravanan August 23, 2011 at 4:43 am

hi, i want to grep the lines which has Eg:”uat” string in the but not “#” string in the line.. can anyone help me out in this????


55 Jass September 26, 2011 at 8:17 pm

/usr/xpg4/bin/grep -E ‘error|critical’ sample.txt

this works for me..


56 Abdulla October 19, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Could you please help me regarding while connect putty Linux based logs like collect grep is working

tail -f test_log | grep ‘\” 50[0234]‘ – working

tail -f test_log | grep ‘\” 50[0234]‘ | grep “404″ – not working

Any one help me on this regard? how to collect 1.500 to 504 2.404 alone.


57 Ramon December 8, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Great info site.
I have a need to search a file looking for dates and a string, For example:
(Dec 2 13:25:27 name local5:warn|warning vmdaemon[180412]: #415 Moved volume tape_1 #0055 (12345678) (abc123 from online to offline.). I need to search for a date and the “online to offline” string together. Also, with grep is it possible to do a date range in the search as oppose to a single date?


58 Om Prakash February 24, 2012 at 10:23 am

It is very good for the student and all type of reader.


59 Ben March 21, 2012 at 12:51 am

I also wanted to find all files that contained two separate words. The words could be anywhere in the file.

One way that I found to do this is:
grep -l word1 `grep -l word2 *`

The backtick quotes execute what is inside the quotes and replace it with the results. -l returns file names only.

More commonly I would also include -ir for case-ignorant recursive search:
grep -irl word1 `grep -irl word2 *`


60 Javier March 30, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Here’s an interesting one that I have been wracking my brain on…

I have some fairly large data files I need to search for certain conditions. Easy enough because I know the string I want to search for. However, the problem arises when someone duplicates the string in the field that I am searching for which expands the data criteria past my grep. here’s example:

String = “000/C///” Field delimiter is pipe so I use: grep -i “|000/C///|” to match the condition. Now what I have found some people doing is using multiple strings in that field where only one exists. Is there a way to search for multiples of the same string without having to do a ton of greps in a row?


61 jeff halper June 7, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Trying to do things with the -A -B options –

To display every line mentioning an astrological element:

grep “earth|air|fire|water” astro.log

How do I accomplish this new result with grep – I cannot figure out how to use the options -A and -B more than once within the same command.

earth and the 2 lines following
air – only the line containing air
fire and the 6 lines following
water and the 3 lines preceding

This would result in a 15-line capture if the command works.


62 ashok July 23, 2012 at 10:59 pm


cat ASHOK.txt|grep -E word1|word2

is working for me… :)


63 sam July 31, 2012 at 10:18 pm

I am trying to pass the word/pattern from command line which I want to find in array but its not working. Say I want to find Jacob but its not returning anything.

#! usr/bin/perl
use Fcntl;
print "content-type: text/html \n\n";
print "Enter word : ";
$word = ;
@myNames = ('Jacob', 'Michael', 'Joshua', 'Matthew', 'Alexander', 'Andrew');
@grepNames = grep(/$word/, @myNames);
foreach $Names(@grepNames)
	print $Names;
	print "\n";


64 A1an August 2, 2012 at 12:08 pm

For me it works only if grep is set to use extended regular expressions with the -E flag

grep -E One\|Two\|”Thirty five”

GNU bash, version 4.1.2(1)-release (x86_64-koji-linux-gnu)
GNU grep 2.6.3


65 Tailgate August 3, 2012 at 3:19 pm

How do I used grep to fiind a vaue with a \\ contained within. For example. If I do a “cat /var/tmp/file | grep “NT Server\\Test” Nothing is returned.


66 bambam August 23, 2012 at 5:46 pm


cat /var/tmp/file | egrep  '[a-z]\\{2}[a-z]'


67 Ken Beesley October 26, 2012 at 6:03 pm

I have a file “nynorsk-utf-8.txt” in UTF-8 that is supposed to be in Nynorsk, one of the two official dialects of Norwegian. But it contains some “contamination” of Bokmal, the other official dialect. To try to identify the sections of Bokmal, I want to find all lines in nynorsk-utf-8.txt that contain any one of a set of 13 short words that are exclusive to Bokmal:


I’m on OS X, using egrep (GNU grep) 2.5.1
I’ve tried the following:

egrep -in “\” nynorsk-utf_8.txt > out.txt

using \ to enforce word boundaries. Yet the output contains lines that do not contain any of these 13 words (as stand-alone words). I also tried

egrep -inw ‘ikke|jeg|fra|en|et|de|mye|hun|noen|se|selv|særlig|uke’ nynorsk-utf_8.txt > outw.txt

with the exact same results. Then I tried listing the 13 words, one per line, in a separate file ‘wordlist’, and launched

grep -inw -f wordlist nynorsk-utf_8.txt > outf.txt

again with the same results. E.g. each output file contains line 16

16:– Dei fleste meiner at rota til den nye terrorismen er å finne i ein tilnærma samfunnsstrukturell stillstand – ein tilstand som pregar både dei rike og fattige arabiske landa.

that does not contain any of the 13 words (as a stand-alone word).

Can anyone tell me what I’m doing wrong? or is there, perchance, a big in (e)grep?


68 Kenneth Beesley October 29, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Sorry–I’m new to this list, and my first example got corrupted. Let me try to mark it up to display correctly

egrep -in “\<(ikke|jeg|fra|en|et|de|mye|hun|noen|se|selv|særlig|uke)\>” nynorsk-utf_8.txt > out.txt

i.e. I used \< and \> as explicit word boundaries. The results were equivalent to launching

egrep -inw “ikke|jeg|fra|en|et|de|mye|hun|noen|se|selv|særlig|uke” nynorsk-utf_8.txt > out.txt


69 Pradeep October 31, 2012 at 7:01 am

Hi im facing a prob in matching multiple patterns.


Variable=”abc* def*” # two patterns abc* and def* are stored in variable.

I should use variable to find the matching lines. How can i achieve it.

We use -f option if patterns are in a file. How to use when patterns are in a variable???


70 Akbar November 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Hi All,

I have two text files
file one contains many words (single word per line) and file two contains many strings per line .
Now I want to Grep every line from file2 which contains file1 word.
Could any one help me out ?

This is like extracting from file2 matches from file1 !!

Very appreciated to the one who give solution here !


71 Akbar November 10, 2012 at 3:52 pm

I want the code to Grep the row from file2 containing file1 strings !!!

Eg :
Happy Diwali
All is well
One day

Now I want to Grep 1st and 3rd line from the file2.txt by file1.txt

Appreciated answer !


72 Akbar November 10, 2012 at 4:24 pm

!!!! Grep -f file1.txt file2.txt

Works guys , cheers ;))


73 Pramod December 20, 2012 at 10:21 pm

THanks nixCraft ,, it’s very useful


74 Vinay January 31, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Best answer would be to use the egrep command to get this worked:-
egrep ‘(str1|str2|str3)’

For example:-
bash-3.00$ cat triana
Man is the most beautiful creator of god.
Man is grate among all creators.
Awsome one…

bash-3.00$ egrep ‘(grate|god)’ triana

Man is the most beautiful creator of god.
Man is grate among all creators.


75 Shilp February 14, 2013 at 10:34 am

I want to grep the pattern

but i think grep command is not reading newline. Please give me any solution if any one have.


76 sony March 29, 2013 at 8:31 am


cat $FILENAME | while read line
#echo “$line”
Keyword=`cut -d “)” -f 2 $line| cut -d “(” -f 2`
Keyword_Count=`grep $KewKeyword $FILENAME`
echo “$Keyword_Count,$Keyword” > trade1.log


HI ,

In the above script i want to get the keyword and once i get the keyword I need to get the count of keyword.So i tried with the above script .it is showing the count first keyword only.Can anyone suggest me to resolve the problem.

Thanks In advance


77 abcd June 21, 2013 at 9:21 am

how do i search for a pattern /someword*/
here someword can be A-Z or a-z or 0-9
Any reply would be appreciated.


78 Pradeep June 21, 2013 at 10:02 am

grep “someword\*” filename
This will do your work!!


79 abcd June 21, 2013 at 10:39 am

Thanks for ur reply but I think i Did not tell my problem properly.

My qustion is :-

I need to search a pattern /someword*/ in a property file

here someword can be any thing eg.A-Z or a-z or 0-9

here I have to search for patterns

Hence someword is variable in property file.

Any help is appreciated


80 tigerwhat January 22, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Don’t this work?

$echo "/goingTo/FollowingPattern*/=Yes" | grep "/[a-zA-Z]*/F[a-zA-Z]*\*/[A-Z]"


81 tigerwhat January 22, 2014 at 1:41 pm

You said numbers too, so just put “[0-9]”


82 Huda September 4, 2013 at 3:07 pm

What really works is
grep -n “s1″ *.* |grep -n “s2″


83 mouli January 22, 2014 at 8:29 am

how to get separate out files for multiple patterns [stings]


84 tigerwhat January 22, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Iterate over for each.


85 rahul June 13, 2014 at 8:17 pm

I need to calculate the received packets from .tr file.
Problem is that one string is necessary for me but some unnecessary events are also counted that are not needed.

So I want a solution.

line1: r 0.500000000 _1_ RTR — 0 cbr 210 [0 0 0 0] ——- [1:0 5:0 32 0] [0] 0 0
line 2: r 0.501408175 _3_ RTR — 0 AODV 48 [0 ffffffff 1 800] ——- [1:255 -1:255 30 0] [0x2 1 1 [5 0] [1 4]] (REQUEST)

I want only line 1 but as I am searching for ‘^r’ only so both files are counting. Pls help me how can I search the line where 2 patterns are needed?


86 Raghuvir Singh July 9, 2014 at 7:47 am

I want to use grep command for multiple patterns in a file and print a number of lines after each match into a new file. Say in the command
$grep ‘Well\|MultiLayer\|Prediction’ PredResult.prn >List.txt

– after ‘Well’ match I want to print 100 lines starting with pattern ’01/’,
– after ‘MultiLayer’ match I do not want to print any line,
– after ‘Prediction’ match I want to print 100 lines starting with pattern ’01/’.

Please suggest a workaround.


87 Gaurav Khurana November 3, 2014 at 2:33 pm

egrep “pattern1|pattern2″ filename
egrep -e “pattern1|pattern2″ filename

The above(both) syntax works in Sun OS for searching multiple patterns in file


88 Pete Townsend January 14, 2015 at 9:49 pm

How can I search with a date string with a space?
Like I was to search for ‘Jan 14′ and Username


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