Button to go to Home Page Home Button to go to About Page About Button to go to Archive Page Archive

How to get the last argument of any previous command

03/24/2017 • 2 minute read

One of my favorite time-saving commands in Bash is !$ which recalls the last argument of the last entered command. This is incredibly useful in situations like this:

$ mkdir superlongnamethatidontwanttotypeout
$ cd !$ && pwd

Similarly, !! recalls the entirety of the last command and !-2 recalls the next to last command from history like so:

$ touch example1
$ touch example2
$ !-2
touch example1

This can be extended out with negative integers to go back lines in Bash history, or a positive integer to start from beginning.

Note: If you need more functionality, you should really learn the fc builtin command. It lets you yank a range of commands from history like fc -2 -4, throws it in your $EDITOR for review, and then execute the command on exit.

With the !-2 logic in mind, I thought !$-2 would work but you get the following result:

$ touch example1
$ touch example2
$ vim !$-2
vim example2-2

As you can see, that expands the last argument and then just inserts -2 instead of interpreting it as a negative line number as I want. I thought this was odd so I researched more and realized that I had a fundamental misunderstanding of how !$ works.

The Bash Manual says:

!!:$ designates the last argument of the preceding command. This may be shortened to !$.

So $ is actually an event specification on !! and thus !$ is not a completely separate word designator from !! as I thought. Knowing that, we just need to use !-2$ like so:

$ touch example1
$ touch example2
$ vim !-2$
vim example1

This gets us the last argument of the next to last command and can also be modified to grab different lines like the !-2 command.

Note: $_ is another beast entirely as it works on executed commands and not entered commands like !$ who needs something to be in history for it to work.


Bash History is an incredibly deep topic with a lot of interesting shortcuts. If you want learn more, I would suggest setting shopt -s histverify to get a better picture of how the shell interprets your commands.

Got Questions, Comments, or Insults?

You May Also Enjoy