Bash History Display Date And Time For Each Command

How do I display shell command history with date and time under a Linux, MacOS or Unix-like operating systems? How do I see date and time stamps in bash history command running on a Linux or Unix-like systems?

The bash shell provides access to the command history, the list of commands previously typed. The value of the HISTSIZE variable is used as the number of commands to save in a history list. If the HISTTIMEFORMAT is set, the time stamp information associated with each history entry is written to the history file, marked with the history comment character. This page shows how to display bash History with date and time when running the history command on a Linux or Unix-like systems.
Tutorial details
Difficulty level Easy
Root privileges No
Requirements Bash on Linux, macOS & Unix
Est. reading time 2 minutes

Bash History Display Date And Time For Each Command

By default history command will display output as follows:
$ history
Sample outputs:

 1994  ls S*.pdf
 1995  ls -lh S*.pdf
 1996  xdg-open Statement_Jun\ 2018.pdf 
 1997  xdg-open System_01Jun2018_30Jun2018_0133*.pdf
 1998  ssh vivek@ln.cbz01
 1999  gpass
 2000  history 

The above command won’t display what time the commands were executed from the bash history. To solve this problem create a shell variable called HISTTIMEFORMAT.

How to see time stamps in bash history

Defining the environment variable named HISTTIMEFORMAT as follows:
$ HISTTIMEFORMAT="%d/%m/%y %T "
OR add to your ~/.bash_profile file, enter:
$ echo 'export HISTTIMEFORMAT="%d/%m/%y %T "' >> ~/.bash_profile

  1. %d – Day
  2. %m – Month
  3. %y – Year
  4. %T – Time

Use the source command to load HISTTIMEFORMAT from file into the current shell script or a command prompt:
$ . ~/.bash_profile
$ source ~/.bash_profile

How to retrieve Linux or Unix bash command line history by date and time

Now, to see history, type:
$ history
Sample outputs:

  986  11/03/10 04:31:36 memcached-tool stats
  987  11/03/10 04:31:36 w
  988  11/03/10 04:31:37 iostat 
  989  11/03/10 04:31:37 top
  990  11/03/10 04:31:37 at
  991  11/03/10 04:31:38 atop
  992  11/03/10 04:31:40 collectl 
  993  11/03/10 04:31:41 grep CPU /proc/cpuinfo 
  994  11/03/10 04:31:45 vmstat 3 100
  995  11/03/10 04:31:55 sar -W -f /var/log/sa/sa12

Here is another output from my Ubuntu Linux server:

Fig.01: Adding date and time to my bash history i.e. Bash History Display Date And Time

Fig.01: Adding date and time to my bash history

Users set the HISTTIMEFORMAT variable. Bash uses its value to the format string to show the date/time stamp associated with each history entry displayed by the built-in history command. In other words, when this variable is set, time stamps are written to the history file so they may be preserved across shell sessions. This uses the history comment character to distinguish timestamps from other history lines.

Controlling Bash history behavior

We can use the shopt command to control optional shell behavior for the history command under Linux, macOS and Unix-like OS. The syntax is:

shopt -s {option} # set/enable 
shopt -u {option} # unset/disable
Table1: Fine tuning bash history options
Option Description Set value Unset value
histappend If set, the history list is appended to the file named by the value of the HISTFILE variable when the shell exits, rather than overwriting the file. set -s histappend

set -u histappend
histreedit If set, and readline is being used, a user is given the opportunity to re-edit a failed history substitution. set -s histreedit

set -u histreedit
histverify If set, and readline is being used, the results of history substitution are not immediately passed to the shell parser. Instead, the resulting line is loaded into the readline editing buffer, allowing further modification. set -s histverify

set -u histverify

Other shell variables

We can set the following additonal variables for history command:

Table 2: Controlling history file size and more
Environment variable
(use the export command)
HISTCONTROL=ignoreboth:erasedups If the list of values includes ignorespace, lines which begin with a space character are not saved in the history list. Also ignoredups option causes lines matching the previous history entry to not be saved. A value of ignoreboth is shorthand for ignorespace and ignoredups. We can set erasedups option that causes all previous lines matching the current line to be removed from the history list before that line is saved. Any value not in the above list is ignored.
PROMPT_COMMAND="history -a; history -n" Run history command before next prompt displayed. The -a option append history lines from this session to the history file. The -n read all history lines not already read from the history file and append them to the history list
HISTIGNORE="ls:ll:cd:pwd:bg:fg:history" A colon-separated list of patterns used to decide which command lines should be saved on the history list.
HISTSIZE=100000 The number of commands to remember in the command history.
HISTFILESIZE=10000000 The maximum number of lines contained in the history file.


You just learned how to display or see time stamps in bash history including date when the command were executed. For more info type the following commands or see gnu/bash page here:
man bash
help history
man 3 strftime

See “A Shell Primer: Master Your Linux, OS X, Unix Shell Environment” for more info.

This entry is 5 of 5 in the Bash HISTORY Tutorial series. Keep reading the rest of the series:
  1. How to disable bash shell history in Linux
  2. How to delete a single command from history on Linux/Unix Bash shell
  3. Clear Shell History In Ubuntu Linux
  4. Clear Linux / UNIX BASH Shell Command Line Cache / History
  5. Bash History: Display Date And Time For Each Command

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🐧 43 comments so far... add one

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43 comments… add one
  • Deej Mar 11, 2010 @ 11:36

    Errant ‘ ” ‘; ought it to read:

    echo ‘export HISTTIMEFORMAT=”%d/%m/%y %T ‘ >> ~/.bash_profile



  • Deej Mar 11, 2010 @ 11:37

    Ha, ha – even I messed up ! I see the command has now been amended.

    echo ‘export HISTTIMEFORMAT=”%d/%m/%y %T ” ‘>> ~/.bash_profile


  • Abhijeet Vaidya Mar 11, 2010 @ 11:41

    End single quote is missing.
    Correct command is:
    echo ‘export HISTTIMEFORMAT=”%d/%m/%y %T “‘ >> ~/.bash_profile

    • Fouzan Mar 14, 2012 @ 12:47

      Can you please suggest how to comeout from bash to normal user. after giving this command not able to come out from bash

  • 🐧 nixCraft Mar 11, 2010 @ 11:46

    @Deej / Abhijeet,

    Thanks for the heads up. Due to caching it takes a few seconds to minutes to clean out old html page cache. The faq has been updated.

  • Somaikeres Mar 11, 2010 @ 12:17

    Thanks, this helps a lot in an enterprise domain, where different ppl run different commands. Nice trick;)

  • Rahul Kolan Mar 11, 2010 @ 13:25

    how to set this on solaris 10 and how to refresh local.login in solaris …

  • 🐧 nixCraft Mar 11, 2010 @ 13:34

    This is bash specific feature. Refer to your local ksh(1) man page or see fc -l. But, there is no $HISTTIMEFORMAT for ksh.

  • jake Mar 11, 2010 @ 13:56

    awesome tip. i’ve forgoten to pursue this, but i’ve always wanted to add that to my bash hist file


  • LA Mar 11, 2010 @ 14:39

    Is there a way to have cumulative history file where commands typed by all users are logged with date and time?

  • cindy Mar 11, 2010 @ 14:51

    I don’t think this tip works for all version of Bash? Because I couldn’t get it working even I put this line in .bash_profile and .profile.

  • 🐧 nixCraft Mar 11, 2010 @ 15:03

    @LA, you need to configure system accounting and auditing which can keep track of all user activities, system resource consumptions and more. History is personal user account specific tool. Also, user can delete history or ignore history file. Search our site for sar and auditing howtos.

    @cindy, refer to your local bash man page. You can find out bash version number with the following command:
    echo $BASH_VERSION

  • cindy Mar 11, 2010 @ 16:06

    Yes, I figured my bash is way too old to have this environment variable. The version that I have is “GNU bash, version 2.03.0(1)-release” and all the examples I found online is above 3.0. My collegue searched the “HISTTIMEFORMAT” in some man pages for history and other, we cannot find this variable. But it’s a nice tip to use. :(

  • izaak Mar 12, 2010 @ 11:06

    I would also add
    $ echo 'export HISTSIZE=10000' >> ~/.bash_profile

    It’s really useful, I think.

  • Dariusz Mar 12, 2010 @ 14:31

    you can add it to /etc/profile so it is available to all users. I also add:

    # Make sure all terminals save history
    shopt -s histappend histreedit histverify
    shopt -s no_empty_cmd_completion # bash>=2.04 only

    # Whenever displaying the prompt, write the previous line to disk:
    PROMPT_COMMAND=’history -a’

    #Use GREP color features by default: This will highlight the matched words / regexes
    export GREP_OPTIONS=’–color=auto’
    export GREP_COLOR=’1;37;41′

  • Babar Haq Mar 15, 2010 @ 6:25

    Good tip. We have multiple users connecting as root using ssh and running different commands. Is there a way to log the IP that command was run from?
    Thanks in advance.

    • Anthony Aug 21, 2014 @ 21:01

      Just for anyone who might still find this thread (like I did today):

      export HISTTIMEFORMAT=”%F %T : $(echo $SSH_CONNECTION | cut -d\ -f1) : ”

      will give you the time format, plus the IP address culled from the ssh_connection environment variable (thanks for pointing that out, Cadrian, I never knew about that before), all right there in your history output.

      You could even add in $(whoami)@ right to get if you like (although if everyone’s logging in with the root account that’s not helpful).

  • cadrian Mar 16, 2010 @ 17:55

    Yup, you can export one of this

    env | grep SSH
    SSH_CLIENT= 42387 22
    SSH_CONNECTION= 42387 22

    As their bash history filename

    set |grep -i hist

    So in profile you can so something like HISTFILE=/root/.bash_history_$(echo $SSH_CONNECTION| cut -d\ -f1)

  • TSI Mar 21, 2010 @ 10:29

    bash 4 can syslog every command bat afaik, you have to recompile it (check file config-top.h). See the news file of bash:
    If you want to safely export history of your luser, you can ssl-syslog them to a central syslog server.

  • Dinesh Jadhav Nov 12, 2010 @ 11:00

    This is good command, It helps me a lot.

  • Indie Sep 19, 2011 @ 11:41

    You only need to use

    export HISTTIMEFORMAT='%F %T '

    in your .bash_profile

  • lalit jain Oct 3, 2011 @ 9:58

    — show history with date & time


  • Sohail Jan 13, 2012 @ 7:05

    Nice trick but unfortunately, the commands which were executed in the past few days also are carrying the current day’s (today’s) timestamp.

    Please advice.


    • Raymond Mar 15, 2012 @ 9:05

      Hi Sohail,

      Yes indeed that will be the behavior of the system since you have just enabled on that day the HISTTIMEFORMAT feature. In other words, the system recall or record the commands which were inputted prior enabling of this feature. Hope this answers your concern.


      • Raymond Mar 15, 2012 @ 9:08

        Hi Sohail,

        Yes, that will be the behavior of the system since you have just enabled on that day the HISTTIMEFORMAT feature. In other words, the system can’t recall or record the commands which were inputted prior enabling of this feature, thus it will just reflect on the printed output (upon execution of “history”) the current day and time. Hope this answers your concern.


  • Sohail Feb 24, 2012 @ 6:45


    The command only lists the current date (Today) even for those commands which were executed on earlier days.

    Any solutions ?


  • nitiratna nikalje Aug 24, 2012 @ 17:24

    hi u know any openings for freshers in linux field? I m doing rhce course from rajiv banergy. My samba,nfs-nis,dhcp,telnet,ftp,http,ssh,squid,cron,quota and system administration is over.iptables ,sendmail and dns is remaining.


  • JMathew Aug 26, 2012 @ 22:51


    Is there anyway to log username also along with the Command Which we typed …

    Thanks in Advance

  • suresh May 22, 2013 @ 13:42

    How can i get full comman along with data and path as we het in history command.

  • rajesh Dec 6, 2013 @ 5:56

    Thanks… it worked..

  • Krishan Feb 7, 2014 @ 6:18

    The command is not working properly. It is displaying the date and time of todays for all the commands where as I ran the some command three before.

    How come it is displaying the today date

  • PR Apr 29, 2014 @ 17:18


    I want to collect the history of particular user everyday and want to send an email.I wrote below script.
    for collecting everyday history by time shall i edit .profile file of that user
    echo 'export HISTTIMEFORMAT="%d/%m/%y %T "' >> ~/.bash_profile

    #This script sends email of particular user
    history >/tmp/history
    if [ -s /tmp/history ]
           mailx -s "history 29042014"  </tmp/history
    rm /tmp/history

    Can any one suggest better way to collect particular user history for everyday

  • lefty.crupps Oct 24, 2014 @ 19:10

    Love it, but using the ISO date format is always recommended (YYYY-MM-DD), just as every other sorted group goes from largest sorting (Year) to smallest sorting (day)

    In that case, myne looks like this:
    echo ‘export HISTTIMEFORMAT=”%YY-%m-%d/ %T “‘ >> ~/.bashrc

    Thanks for the tip!

    • lefty.crupps Oct 24, 2014 @ 19:11

      please delete post 33, my command is messed up.

  • lefty.crupps Oct 24, 2014 @ 19:11

    Love it, but using the ISO date format is always recommended (YYYY-MM-DD), just as every other sorted group goes from largest sorting (Year) to smallest sorting (day)

    In that case, myne looks like this:
    echo ‘export HISTTIMEFORMAT=”%Y-%m-%d %T “‘ >> ~/.bashrc

    Thanks for the tip!

  • Vanathu Oct 30, 2014 @ 1:01

    its show only current date for all the command history

    • lefty.crupps Oct 30, 2014 @ 2:08

      it’s marking all of your current history with today’s date. Try checking again in a few days.

  • tinu Oct 14, 2015 @ 15:30

    Hi All,

    I Have enabled my history with the command given :
    echo ‘export HISTTIMEFORMAT=”%d/%m/%y %T “‘ >> ~/.bash_profile

    i need to know how i can add the ip’s also , from which the commands are fired to the system.

  • bharadhi May 13, 2016 @ 10:36

    How to set the history with date format for cshell and also let me know why cshell users also having bashrc, bash profile, in its home path

  • Álvaro Jun 9, 2016 @ 9:41

    this shit does not works.

  • Thalia Corbyn Apr 15, 2021 @ 18:50

    Worked like a charm on my new Macbook pro xD. I hate zfs. I switched back to bash and this all I was missing.

  • Vera Sutton Apr 16, 2021 @ 3:29

    My PROMPT_COMMAND to keep existing PROMPT_COMMAND settings

     export PROMPT_COMMAND="history -a;history -r;$PROMPT_COMMAND"
  • Page Ingram May 3, 2021 @ 6:21

    From my ~/.bash_aliases file:

    shopt -s histappend
    shopt -s histappend histreedit histverify
    shopt -s no_empty_cmd_completion
    export HISTCONTROL=ignoreboth:erasedups
    export PROMPT_COMMAND="history -a; history -n"
    export HISTIGNORE="ls:ll:cd:pwd:bg:fg:history"
    export HISTSIZE=100000
    export HISTFILESIZE=10000000
    export HISTTIMEFORMAT="%d/%m/%y %T "

    It is so nice to have clean and easy to read history.

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